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The Abstract Wild

The Abstract Wild

5.0 1
by Jack Turner
"A cry in the dark, passionate and provocative, and it must be heard."--Peter Matthiessen, author of Snow Leopard

"A deep and darkly provocative book, a soul wringer and chaser, written with the resonant authority of a Bach fugue. . . . You need a firm hold on your chair for this one."--Jim Harrison, author of Woman Lit by


"A cry in the dark, passionate and provocative, and it must be heard."--Peter Matthiessen, author of Snow Leopard

"A deep and darkly provocative book, a soul wringer and chaser, written with the resonant authority of a Bach fugue. . . . You need a firm hold on your chair for this one."--Jim Harrison, author of Woman Lit by Fireflies

"Included here [are] some of the most original, refreshing and frightening discussions of trends in human relationships with the natural world that I have seen in years. . . .Only a few recent writers have broken such new ground in nature writing."--Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Gathering the Desert

If anything is endangered in America it is our experience of wild nature--gross contact. There is knowledge only the wild can give us, knowledge specific to it, knowledge specific to the experience of it. These are its gifts to us.

How wild is wilderness and how wild are our experiences in it, asks Jack Turner in the pages of The Abstract Wild. His answer: not very wild. National parks and even so-called wilderness areas fall far short of offering the primal, mystic connection possible in wild places. And this is so, Turner avows, because any managed land, never mind what it's called, ceases to be wild. Moreover, what little wildness we have left is fast being destroyed by the very systems designed to preserve it.

Natural resource managers, conservation biologists, environmental economists, park rangers, zoo directors, and environmental activists: Turner's new book takes aim at these and all others who labor in the name of preservation. He argues for a new conservation ethic that focuses less on preserving things and more on preserving process and "leaving things be." He takes off after zoos and wilderness tourism with a vengeance, and he cautions us to resist language that calls a tree "a resource" and wilderness "a management unit."

Eloquent and fast-paced, The Abstract Wild takes a long view to ask whether ecosystem management isn't "a bit of a sham" and the control of grizzlies and wolves "at best a travesty." Next, the author might bring his readers up-close for a look at pelicans, mountain lions, or Shamu the whale. From whatever angle, Turner stirs into his arguments the words of dozens of other American writers including Thoreau, Hemingway, Faulkner, and environmentalist Doug Peacock.

We hunger for a kind of experience deep enough to change our selves, our form of life, writes Turner. Readers who take his words to heart will find, if not their selves, their perspectives on the natural world recast in ways that are hard to ignore and harder to forget.

Jack Turner is a world traveler and former academic philosopher. Now the chief climbing guide for a mountaineering school in Grand Teton National Park, he is currently working on a book about the Tetons.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These eight provocative essays turn on a common theme: how wildness (once but no longer the essence of wilderness) has been mediated, micromanaged and abstracted nearly out of existence. The essays include rants against the status quo, memoirs of wild places and a tribute to Doug Peacock, who dared to live among grizzlies. Turner, a former academic who's now a mountain guide in the Grand Tetons, infuses his writing with a restless anger, best felt when read fast. At times, he exhibits a penchant for hyperbole ("Yosemite Valley is more like Coney Island than a wilderness"), and his tone can run a bit high-handed, as when he loftily compares his mountaineering to the predilections of pelicans. He is most persuasive when relying on the language of experience: coming upon a wall of prehistoric pictographs in a Utah canyon, tracking a mountain lion in Wyoming, listening to the clacking of soaring white pelicans. One essay, "Economic Nature," starkly reveals both Turner the pedant, excoriating the language of economics that controls the way we see the world, and Turner the meditative poet ("Dig in someplace.... Allow the spirits of your chosen place to speak through you. Say their names."). Both are persuasive. In the end, Turner has produced a manifesto that defends the wild by passionately restoring its good Thoreauvian name. (Oct.)
An authoritative ethnohistory and compendium of medicinal herbs containing complete descriptions of herbs used by indigenous peoples of the region for the same purposes the Aztecs and 18th century explorers used them. Kay (U. of Arizona) relies on her anthropological and nursing experiences working with Mexican American women to bring both an academic and personal perspective to her introductory discussions of plants, and to the 100 plant descriptions that include botanical and common names, history, contemporary uses, preparation and administration, and phytochemical data. The appendices supply information on plant safety, and pharmacologically active phytochemicals. Includes a few line drawings. Paper edition (unseen), $16.95. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

"Powerfully written essays on our relationship to wilderness. . . . This sometimes blistering, provocative, well-written book is an ecoradical's dream come true—and every reader concerned with wilderness issues should take it into account."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is not a safe little treatise. It's a clarion call, a manifesto, a defense summation for the embattled, innocent, integrated world."—Western American Literature

Product Details

University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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Abstract Wild 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read this book if you want a different, first hand take on the idea of (W)ilderness or wilderness. Turner is as close as we have to a living Ed Abbey, but the Tetons are his desert, and he does them as much justice as Abbey ever did the Southwest. My only complaint is that he hasn't written more.