- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Olson will best be remembered for authoring such conservationist hymnals as The Singing Wilderness and Reflections from the North Country, where he vented his land aesthetics and spiritual beliefs. His ego was such that, after reading Thoreau, he felt "no one has as yet developed a philosophy of the wilderness. That is up to me." And it is to the credit of Backes—an unabashed Olson fan who treats his papers and diaries as if they were sacred relics—that he includes such nuggets. The son of a strong-willed Swedish Baptist minister, Olson evolved a kind of wilderness theology—a love of all life in God's cosmic adventure—that found "ritualistic significance" in the uncivilized world. These days, Olson's writing feels by turns overly manly ("My work must be strong and hard and masculine") and overly sentimental; readers may well agree with the Houghton Mifflin editor who rejected Olson's first collection: "Essays . . . have to be superbly written to have a chance, and Sig Olson's prose is not on that level." Thus Backes wisely devotes significant space to Olson's championing such then-crazy notions as roadless areas and air reservations (patches over which no flights are allowed) and to making sense of a man who bridled at the thought of being behind a desk, who would rather have been in a canoe, yet accepted numerous administrative posts, from college dean to president of the Wilderness Society, with many a bureaucratic stop between, hating them all the while.
Impeccably researched, near-claustrophobically detailed, evenhanded—Backes's volume gives a sense of the Olson behind the legend.
|1.||Boyhood and Youth, 1899-1916||1|
|2.||College Years, 1916-1919||19|
|3.||A Rolling Stone, 1920-1923||36|
|4.||Northwoods Guide, 1923-1929||49|
|5.||The Reluctant Ecologist, 1930-1932||70|
|6.||A Need for Recognition, 1932-1935||91|
|7.||Storms of Life, 1934-1938||110|
|8.||The Hidden Life of a Dean, 1936-1940||133|
|9.||The War Years, 1940-1946||158|
|10.||A Professional Conservationist, 1946-1949||181|
|11.||Widening Horizons, 1950-1954||208|
|12.||The Singing Wilderness, 1950-1956||234|
|13.||The Search for Balance, 1956-1960||259|
|14.||From Contemplation to Action: Sigurd Olson's Wilderness Theology, 1959-1964||286|
|15.||The Making of a Myth, 1960-1982||314|
Posted June 21, 2001
Much more than a biography of one of America's most beloved nature writers and conservationists, 'A Wilderness Within' details Olson's struggles with balancing a desire to write with the realities of life. As a first time novelist ('The Legacy', Savage Press, October 2000) and essayist for the Hermantown Star who, like Sigurd, became a published author later in life (Olson was 57 when his first book came out), I found the depiction of Olson's battle to place pen to page an uplifting vindication of the human spirit. The book drags a bit when it recounts Mr. Olson's involvement in various conservation groups from the 1930's to his death in 1982. However, on balance, the book serves as an excellent portrait of the writer, and the man, who helped preserve American wilderness for future generations.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.