The Book of Yaak

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The Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana is one of the last great wild places in the United States, a land of black bears and grizzlies, wolves and coyotes, bald and golden eagles, and even a handful of humans. But its magic may not be enough to save it from the forces threatening it now. In The Book of Yaak Rick Bass captures the soul of the valley itself, and he shows how, if places like the Yaak are lost, so too will be the human riches of mystery and imagination.

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The Book of Yaak

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The Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana is one of the last great wild places in the United States, a land of black bears and grizzlies, wolves and coyotes, bald and golden eagles, and even a handful of humans. But its magic may not be enough to save it from the forces threatening it now. In The Book of Yaak Rick Bass captures the soul of the valley itself, and he shows how, if places like the Yaak are lost, so too will be the human riches of mystery and imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bass is never better than when he is writing from deep within his passion to save the Yaak." The Los Angeles Times

"A passionate, informative recounting of one man's attempt to save a very special piece of the natural world" Dallas Morning News

Rob Spillman

The Yaak Valley, one of the most remote places in the United States, is nestled in the northwest corner of Montana bordering Idaho and Canada, where the Rockies meet the Pacific Northwest. It's a wilderness filled with incredible biodiversity ù trees, rare orchids, wildflowers, grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, elk, moose and caribou. Bass, a geologist turned naturalist and short story writer, is one of only a hundred people who call the Yaak home. In this, his tenth book, Bass takes the reader on long walks through what can only be described as a spiritual place. With detail-rich prose, he relates the delicate rhythms that the valley's fauna, fish, wildlife ù as well as various human recluses ù go through over the course of brutal winters, short, spectacular springs and picturesque summers and falls.

In these interconnected essays Bass shows how the Yaak forms a vital link to other near and far wild areas, one absolutely necessary for the survival of the migratory animals he has tracked over the years. Then he introduces us to the land-rapists. Pushed out of the Pacific Northwest, multi-national lumber conglomerates have recently become hellbent on clear-cutting the old growth in this unique but tourist-unfriendly valley, a place not deemed worthy of governmental protection. Bass describes how the United States Forest Service uses tax dollars to build roads into pristine forests so that logging companies can denude whole hillsides, then send the logs out of state, and frequently out of the country. Local communities are given a short-term economic boost, but then are saddled with long-term ecological disaster.

While this book is a cry for help, it is also a meditation, one often worthy of Thoreau. Bass, having moved to the wilderness to pursue a solitary life of art, wonders what happens when the last wild areas are destroyed, whether one can live and create without the "grace and magic" that exist only in wild ecosystems. He worries that when a society destroys all that is mysterious, it dooms itself. "We need wilderness to protect us from ourselves," Bass warns in this passionate love letter to one of our last pristine lands, a paradise deserving of a country's respect and protection. -- Salon

Library Journal
Popular outdoor author Bass (Lost Grizzlies, LJ 11/1/95) returns to his home turf in the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, also the setting for his Winter Notes from Montana (LJ 2/15/91). As a resident of that remote area for over ten years, Bass seems to have been accepted by the few locals who populate the canyon. Much of this work concerns his attempt to protect the remaining wilderness of the area, a vital corridor for genetic replenishment of wildlife from Canada. As he ponders the question of the worth of such a place, Bass writes countless letters to anyone he feels may aid in stopping the construction of the roads that facilitate logging in the area. Although bitterness occasionally surfaces in his account, the author remains hopeful as he describes attempts to forge alliances with diverse groups of loggers, hunters, and other residents. In the process of reconciling his artistic side (writing) with his scientific training as a geologist, he once again paints a marvelous portrait of life in an area of rugged beauty. Recommended for all public, regional, and nature collections.-Tim Markus, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, Wash.
Kirkus Reviews
An urgent plea by a longtime resident to preserve one of the lower 48's remaining wilderness areas.

Nestled where Idaho, Montana, and Alberta, Canada, meet, the Yaak Valley—the name means "arrow" in Kootenai—is a treasure vault of old-growth pine, spruce, and Douglas fir. It is also a prime target for the logging industry, which now seeks to open the Yaak to clearcut logging. Bass (The Lost Grizzlies, 1995, etc.) is scandalized by this possibility, especially inasmuch as the US Forest Service subsidizes such logging "to the tune of one or two billion dollars per decade" and "timber companies working on public lands in the West continue to post record quarterly profits for their stockholders"—precisely because of the government's largess. This well-written, impatient, often polemical book urges that the Yaak, and other wild places, be set aside from economic development, and Bass's program is modest: "I want," he writes, "the last few roadless areas in this still-wild valley to remain that way." He also celebrates the power of wilderness to inspire the meditative, simple life: "I practice going slow," he says, "at a pace that can be sustained. I practice looking around at things." He also introduces us to neighbors who have found a special solace in the deep woods. Bass argues that most Montanans and Idahoans oppose any further destruction of their backyard wilderness and demonstrates how important old-growth forest is to the health of the entire ecosystem.

Much of this will be familiar territory to readers who know Bass's work, for he has written about the Yaak before in books like Winter (1991) and The Ninemile Wolves (1992). Even so, this is a valuable document in the continuing battle over wilderness preservation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395877463
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 210
  • Sales rank: 1,232,425
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Customer Reviews

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