The Literary Art and Activism of Rick Bass
Edited by O. Alan Weltzien
"Art or activism? Why not both? Why worry about burning out in activism or failing in art? What else are our lives but diminishing tapers of wax, sputtering already in long flame? Rot or burn, it's all the same to the eye of time."
—Rick Bass, Brown Dog of the Yaak
In his controversial 1998 book Fiber, Rick Bass introduced a troubling dilemma of the literary artist and activist: How can any nature writer engage in celebration of the natural world in the face of environmental degradation? Perhaps, Bass speculated, the "activist is the artist's ashes," the identity that emerges finally from charred remains of a "pure" devotion to the art of nature writing. In The Literary Art and Activism of Rick Bass, the first comprehensive collection of literary criticism to address Bass's work, fifteen scholars elucidate the development of social, political, and personal issues in Bass’s fiction and nonfiction.
Karla Armbruster, Webster University, St. Louis; Diana L. Ashe, University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Thomas Bailey, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo; Michael P. Branch, University of Nevada, Reno; Terrell Dixon, University of Houston; Jim Dwyer, California State University; Terry Gifford, University of Leeds, United Kingdom; Henry Harrington, University of Montana, Missoula; Richard Hunt, Mesabi Range College, Virginia, Minnesota; Jonathan Johnson, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, Washington; Richard Kerridge, Bath Spa University College, United Kingdom; Thomas J. Lyon, Utah State University, Logan; Gregory L. Morris, Pennsylvania State University, Erie; Scott Slovic, University of Nevada, Reno; O. Alan Weltzien, Western Montana College, Dillon
Table of Contents:
Teaching and Learning: An Appreciation of Rick Bass and His Writing ~ Thomas J. Lyon
A Paint Brush in One Hand and a Bucket of Water in the Other: Nature Writing and the Politics of Wilderness ~ Scott Slovic
"The Unbelievable Thing Usually Goes to the Heart of the Story": Magic Realism in the Fiction of Rick Bass ~ Jim Dwyer
Tracking the Animal Man from Walden to Yaak: Emersonian Notions of Self, Nature, and Writing in Thoreau's Walden and Rick Bass's Winter ~ Jonathan Johnson
Rick Bass's Winter: Self-Discovery in a Cold Place ~ Thomas Bailey
Witnessing to the Wild: Rick Bass and the Advocacy of Wonder ~ Richard Hunt
The Space between Text and Action: Redefining Nature Writing through the Work of Rick Bass and John McPhee ~ Diana L. Ashe
Unmasking the Self: Rick Bass as Ecojournalist ~ Gregory L. Morris
Thinking Like a Wolf: The Narrative Evolution of The Ninemile Wolves ~ Henry Harrington
"Too Damn Close": Thresholds and Their Maintenance in Rick Bass's Work ~ Richard Kerridge
Can a Book Protect a Valley?: Rick Bass and the Dilemmas of Environmental Advocacy ~ Karla Armbruster
Jeremiad, Elegy, and the Yaak: Rick Bass and the Aesthetics of Anger and Grief ~ Michael P. Branch
Fiber: A Post-Pastoral Georgia ~ Terry Gifford
Sounding the Depths of Rick Bass's Ancient Seas ~ O. Alan Weltzein
Where the Sea Used to Be: Rick Bass and the Novel of Ecological Education ~ Terrell F. Dixon
Conclusion: Self-Portrait with Dogs ~ O. Alan Weltzien
Praise and Reviews:
"An insightful look at Rick Bass’s environmental advocacy and his artistic achievement, this collection places Bass’s writing squarely at the forefront of contemporary American nature writing."
—Ann Ronald, University of Nevada, Reno
"Even a sampling of this volume's essays reveals that it informs readers not only about Rick Bass and his work but also about the fast developing fields of environmental literature, literary ecology, and ecocriticism."
—Southwestern American Literature
"Clearly, the energy in Bass's prose stimulates equally energetic responses in the maturing field of ecocriticism.... These essays make an important contribution to the field."
—ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment