Picks and Pans Review: The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness
In three lovely novellas, Bass gently persuades us to relax rigid thinking about loaded opposites like man and nature, male and female, prey and predator, life and death. The most exotic of the three—more fairy tale than wilderness adventure—is "The Myth of Bears." In it, Judith, the runaway wife of a trapper, becomes a creature of the Yukon forest. She wishes we wouldn't "spend our silly lives crossing back and forth over that river...rather than swimming in it." Bass would have us jump right into his metaphorical river and feel the wholly connected current of being on the planet. "Where the Sea Used to Be" is a whimsical love story about a wildcat oilman in northern Alabama. And the title novella tells of a woman "sculpted by the land"—her family's 10,000-acre ranch, a cattle-free oasis of wilderness in overgrazed West Texas.
Bass writes beautifully about nature and about those who fully inhabit it. His keen-eyed prose makes even a devoted urbanite regret that the cities' neon washes out the stars and outcompetes the fireflies. (Houghton Mifflin, $23)