Brown Dog of the Yaak: Essays on Art and Activism (Credo series)

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9781571312242: Brown Dog of the Yaak: Essays on Art and Activism (Credo series)
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Rick Bass's dog Colter is the brown dog of the Yaak who charges through the mountain valleys following the scent of game. Bass gives a history of his years with Colter as a way of understanding what is intuitive in his quest to create art

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From Kirkus Reviews:

paper 1-57131-224-2 Bass (Where the Sea Used to Be, 1998, etc.) identifies the triangulate elements used to chart the course of his life and writing. The Bassian motivational universe is hardly a national secret, even to those most fleetingly acquainted with his work: In fiction and nonfiction, it is cut of a cloth, in praise and in defense of those wild places left on earth. One of his three essentials is thus place, in particular the Yaak valley of northwest Montana, his home, inspiration, solace, and love. On that place runs the brown dog, Bass's pointer, as graceful in the natural world as Bass would like to be. His dog, as irreducible as an element, goes lost, and his valley is imperiled by the same forces that rob wildness everywhere. What happens, Bass asks, when the durable falls away, when vital tethers are severed? ``What kind of stories do we tell, as we are falling? How do we live our lives?'' Two more guiding stars appear in his firmament: activism and writing. Both he considers as shadows compared with the reala rock is real, a wolf, a fir tree, his dogbut activism is the tool our political culture affords those who are fiercely protective of the real, and no matter how tedious or against the grain, it must be deployed, and it must be done artfully. Writing as well can touch the wild, ``having protected, kept alive, or even enhanced the shape'' of the landscape's gifts. For Bass, these three anchors are also sanctuaries, one of which he will choose as a place where he can hide from the other two; each also opens up experiences left untouched by the others, to be explored as one might a strange house, room to room. Bass is an eloquent essayist; he somehow avoids sermonizing while lecturing, though he too often writes of things better seen and not said, like ``starlight on the fur of sleeping wolves,'' which sounds awfully mawkish. Pleasant, but Bass's credo didn't need a separate book to clarify; none of his works skirt the issue. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In four essays, Bass (The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness, etc.) ponders the relationship between literature and activism, organically fusing nature writing, environmentalism and the quest for meaning, leaping from the particular to the universal, from individual worries to planetary concerns, with breathtaking ease. As Bass discusses the difficulty of juggling the roles of writer and conservationist, his central theme emerges: art, which makes order out of chaos, and activism, which transforms the physical world, complement each other. The unifying thread in these reflections, oddly, is Colter, Bass's brown, German shorthaired pointer, a dog that helped him hunt grouse and pheasants in Montana's north woods. Bass draws some strained parallels between the dog's dexterity and the artist's forays into reality and imagination, yet anyone who has ever mourned the loss of a pet (and especially readers who have actually worked with dogs, as hunters do) will find solace in his soaring tribute to man's best friend. The collection's other major motif is the importance of preserving the Yaak, a wild valley between the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies where a handful of caribou, grizzly bears, bald eagles and other endangered species still survive. Bass believes that the area's logging industry should give way to sustainable forestry, and he calls for federal protection of his home's roadless wildlands. These eloquent essays renew the spirit and reawaken the senses. (May) FYI: Brown Dog of the Yaak launches Milkweed's new Credo series, which will address the concerns of contemporary nature writers. Scott Slovic is the series editor. Forthcoming books in the series will come from Patiann Rogers, Scott Russell Sanders and William Kittredge.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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