North Enough: AIDS and Other Clear-Cuts

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Overwhelmed after her intense years as an AIDS worker in San Francisco, Jan Zita Grover moved cross-country to Minnesota, hoping to find a place north enough to feel an escape. What she didn't expect to find is the reality of the devastated landscape that makes up the north woods—massive cut-overs, land that has been logged and used beyond any easily recognizable loveliness.

However, Grover's extraordinary imagination sees similarities between this ravished landscape and the ...

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Overview

Overwhelmed after her intense years as an AIDS worker in San Francisco, Jan Zita Grover moved cross-country to Minnesota, hoping to find a place north enough to feel an escape. What she didn't expect to find is the reality of the devastated landscape that makes up the north woods—massive cut-overs, land that has been logged and used beyond any easily recognizable loveliness.

However, Grover's extraordinary imagination sees similarities between this ravished landscape and the ravished bodies of her dying friends. Refusing to sentimentalize, she nevertheless finds surprising consolation in loss. From landfills that have become prime wildlife feeding areas, to the unexpected joys of fly-fishing without a hook, Grover again bears witness to something she first began to articulate in San Francisco: the "difficult beauties of deformity."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Grover, formerly a volunteer who worked with people with AIDS and was employed by the division of AIDS activities at San Francisco General Hospital, has moved to Minnesota, where she sees metaphors for the disease in the state's gutted wilderness. The metaphor works, but it is also overworked. While her work as a volunteer with a man named Darryl, who begs her to cook for him and then finds himself unable to eat, is transmitted through stunning details (after Darryl's death, Grover finds herself weeping to his visiting nurse that she misses the scent of the man's diarrhea), there is a sameness to the descriptions of the wilderness. And the indignant writing about clear-cuts-"They aren't at all hard to find in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, since both regions were and remain primarily the fiefdoms of timber companies and the government"-can't compare to that about Grover's relationship a with another dying man, Eric, or the terror of a visit by the father who sexually abused him. Typical of the San Francisco section is a piece on how counselors try to track down current rumors and investigate their sources ("we can rule out TV and Dear Abby for that one-Howard Stern?") There are plenty of outside sources and quotes in the Minnesota sections, but since the relationship between person and nature is at heart a solitary interaction, these aren't so touching. The reason Grover moved to Minnesota was because, after three years amidst the tragedy of AIDS, she was burned out. Ravaged nature just isn't as affecting for her, so ultimately the Minnesota sections pale for us, too. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A meditation on AIDS and the destruction of the environment.

Debut author Grover spent most of the late 1980s working with AIDS patients at San Francisco General. Her work, she writes unapologetically, burned her out, leaving her depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden. And so she left, taking what "was known in AA circles as the geographic cure: move on, the fantasy ran, and your problems would be different—either that, or they would simply go away." Returning to her native state of Minnesota, Grover took up rural life in the North Woods. But her problems did not disappear, and the bulk of her slender book is given over to addressing her sorrow. We do not learn enough about what this rural life entailed—how much wood she burned in winter to keep warm, whether she had to fight off cabin fever—to connect with this author as we have with other backwoods chroniclers (Thoreau, Dillard). But Grover has other purposes: A graceful polemicist, she pokes deserved fun at what she calls The Rock Hudson Factor, "the index of the points at which free-floating anxiety and ignorance alight" on society at large. More seriously, she examines Aldo Leopold's formulation that "one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds." This is certainly true in the North Woods, where vast tracts of forest are clear-cut for pulpwood and timber; even so, Grover found that "everywhere a powerful beauty remains." The same holds true, she suggests, of the ravaged lives of AIDS sufferers. The possibilities for mawkishness in equating the devastation of disease with the devastation wrought on a landscape are endless, but Grover sidesteps the worst traps and does not sentimentalize her subjects, human ("AIDS does not turn people into saints," she admonishes) or natural.

Grover's thoughtful memoir invites the reader to join in learning how to "salvage beauty from loss."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555972356
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 8.86 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Zita Grover devides her time between northern Minnesota and Wisconsin and Minneapolis. She is a longtime contributor to the Women's Review of Books and an editor at Midwest Fly Fishing. North Enough is her first book.

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