Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands

Overview


Though he’d lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price—until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surroundings home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price’s rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie—that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the ...
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Overview


Though he’d lived in Iowa all his life, the allure of the prairie had somehow eluded John Price—until, after a catastrophic flood, a brief glimpse of native wildlife suddenly brought his surroundings home to him. Not Just Any Land is a memoir of Price’s rediscovery of his place in the American landscape and of his search for a new relationship to the life of the prairie—that once immense and beautiful wilderness of grass now so depleted and damaged as to test even the deepest faith.

Price’s journey toward a conscious commitment to place takes him to some of America’s largest remaining grasslands and brings him face to face with a troubling, but also hopeful, personal and environmental legacy. It also leads him through the region’s literature and into conversations with contemporary nature writers—Linda Hasselstrom, Dan O’Brien, William Least Heat-Moon, and Mary Swander—who have devoted themselves to living in, writing about, and restoring the grasslands. Among these authors Price observes how a commitment to the land can spring from diverse sources, for instance, the generational weight of a family ranch, the rites of wildlife preservation, the “deep maps” of ancestral memory, and the imperatives of a body inflicted with environmental illness. The resulting narrative is an innovative blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism that bears witness to the essential bonds between spirit, art, and earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

"Price is a gifted writer. . . . His journey leaves him transformed as it may well transform the reader."—Booklist
Western American Literature

“The personal and literary dimensions of his journey through the American grasslands provide a thoughtful and very readable contribution to the ongoing discussion about regionalism and the ethical responsibilities of regional and environmental writers.”—Western American Literature
Nebraska Life

Not Just Any Land is a curious and enjoyable blend of diverse elements...partly a book of nature,...partly a literary survey,...[and] more memoir than scholarly treatise.”—Nebraska Life
Annals of Iowa

“Price is to be applauded for his work in making the case for a more immediate and personal criticism. . . . Ultimately, he fashions a compelling new way to encourage his readers to think about their relationships with place, region, and environmental responsibility, and he offers revealing sketches of writers and their ideas about what it means to live in the plains and prairie regions.”—Annals of Iowa

Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment

“Price makes an important contribution to the community of writers who care about the landscapes that have become places of solitude, healing, and home. . . . A personal narrative, imbued with vivid prose and keen insight.”—Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment
Kansas!

“In this well-researched and image-filled memoir, Price takes readers on a spiritual journey to rediscover the land. As he visits with contemporary nature writers and explores the effect that nature has on the soul, Price touches on the importance of preserving the grasslands.”—Kansas!
American Studies

“Although the focus of Price’s first full-length work is on the writings of four Great Plains writers, his discovery of his relationship with this complex, beautiful, and damaged environment forms his work’s narrative. . . . Through his pilgrimage to the prairie and his conversations with those who intimately live with and write about its undulations and grasses, its animals and people, its memories and stories, Price comes to be able to tell his own story of caring and acting both persuasively and poetically.”—Elizabeth Schultz, American Studies

— Elizabeth Schultz

Wapsipinicon Almanac - Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft

“From the first captivating ‘calligraphic figure of a blue heron’ the reader will be bound with Price on his journey to connect with the land. . . . Price’s personal and literary journey is a deftly woven tapestry that connects all who have chosen to rest for a moment or two in the great sea of grass, and invites those who have not to experience that natural history of the grasslands.”—Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft, Wapsipinicon Almanac
The NCB News - Twyla Hansen

"This 'memoir' is grassland exploration and ecology literature search at its best. . . . Price's insightful questions and sense of humor make the book's subject highly accessible and memorable. Great Plains enthusiasts, as well as those wanting to understand this often-overlooked region. . . .'where surprises can live and grow,' will delight in his extensive use of quotations from well-known writers."—Twyla Hansen, The NCB News
The Manhattan Mercury - Glenn M. Busset

“Price cleverly invites his readers to join him, as he drives across the plains, visiting and interviewing those prairie conservationists whose books he has admired. Along the way, he integrates his own thinking, his reading of the prairie classics into the conversations that he has with his unseen readers. . . . The message of Not Just Any Land is idealistic, emotional, and strongly appealing, presented with good humor and a living perspective.”—Glenn M. Busset, The Manhattan Mercury
Great Plains Quarterly - Walter Isle

“[Price’s] book offers valuable ecocriticism, vivid portraits of writers, and a compelling account of Price’s learning what it means for him to be ‘native to a place.’”—Walter Isle, Great Plains Quarterly
David Bristow

“A curious and enjoyable blend of diverse elements. It is partly a book of nature, a quest to create ‘a new connection to my home landscape. . . . a grasslands bioregion I’d lived in all my life but never seen, never known.’ It is partly a literary survey, with extended interviews with influential Great Plains writers. . . . It is more memoir than scholarly treatise—a series of physical journeys to remote corners of the prairie states, and a more personal journey of self-discovery and a growing sense of place.”—David Bristow, Nebraska Center for the Book
American Studies - Elizabeth Schultz

“Although the focus of Price’s first full-length work is on the writings of four Great Plains writers, his discovery of his relationship with this complex, beautiful, and damaged environment forms his work’s narrative. . . . Through his pilgrimage to the prairie and his conversations with those who intimately live with and write about its undulations and grasses, its animals and people, its memories and stories, Price comes to be able to tell his own story of caring and acting both persuasively and poetically.”—Elizabeth Schultz, American Studies
North Dakota History - Linda Helstern

"Ultimately, Price's journey brings him home as a member of a community committed to prairie restoration. His book, with its vision of prairie diversity and faith in our potential for rebalancing the relationship between humanity and the natural world, stands as a testament to possibility."—Linda Helstern, North Dakota History
Scott Russell Sanders

“John Price finds his way to the heart of the grasslands that our ancestors called the great inland sea. Riding and listening and reading along with him, we learn not only about the prairie, we also learn how to be at home in our own place.”—Scott Russell Sanders, author of Hunting for Hope
Julene Bair

“Price’s considerable wisdom and poetic vision spring from both the prairie and great prairie books. With nature as his compass and literature as his map, he conducts us on a powerful journey not just in the American grasslands, but in understanding the relationship between our identity and the places that blood and history define for us as home.”—Julene Bair, author of One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter
Christopher Cokinos

“What does a hot tub on a nature writer’s ranch say about wildness? How does one begin to make a home in a ravaged ecosystem? French fries or bull fries? What can the prairie awaken in writers—including the author of this marvelous pilgrimage? These and other questions help John Price avoid the usual paeans and bromides that fill too much contemporary nature writing. Price puts himself on the line by showing us how he is trying to understand the place he’s from—and where he wishes to live as an ecological citizen. Part of that process is visiting with writers who have made the grasslands their home. His dispatches from these encounters—literary and personal—can help all of us understand failings, desires, complications. And, despite Joyce Carol Oates’s declaration that nature writers lack a sense of humor, John Price gives us moments of genuine, self-deprecating humor, which, in his hands, is also wisdom.”—Christopher Cokinos, author of Hope Is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds
Choice

"In consecutive chapters about nature writers of the disappearing grasslands of the Great Plains, Price seamlessly combines several literary modes. . . . Price shows a talent for asking the right questions and for listening carefully and critically to his subjects."—Choice
Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment

“Price makes an important contribution to the community of writers who care about the landscapes that have become places of solitude, healing, and home. . . . A personal narrative, imbued with vivid prose and keen insight.”—Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature & Environment

Kansas!

“In this well-researched and image-filled memoir, Price takes readers on a spiritual journey to rediscover the land. As he visits with contemporary nature writers and explores the effect that nature has on the soul, Price touches on the importance of preserving the grasslands.”—Kansas!

Library Journal
In this earnest volume, mathematician and philosopher Dembski oversees an intellectual critique of Darwinism. By that, most of the contributors are referring to what they consider a bankrupt materialistic ideology; almost all are operating from a theistic worldview, in which any account of life's origins must involve purpose and design. Naturally, two authors of popular works who espouse extremely reductive and atheistic views, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, are lightning rods for repeated criticism here. Both camps rely on opposing sets of first principles for their ontological systems, which are painfully obvious to them but not to the other side. One of the book's inadvertent strengths is its illustration of the inextricable linkage of the teleological and naturalistic worldviews in the Western tradition. One contributor, Christopher Michael Langan, begins to move abstrusely toward overcoming the logical bind that they have with one another. Otherwise, the book merely trots out many timeworn and unconvincing criticisms of evolutionary biology. Recommended only as a contemporary exemplar of several species of argument and a minor contribution to the history of ideas. Walter L. Cressler, West Chester Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Great Plains Quarterly

“[Price’s] book offers valuable ecocriticism, vivid portraits of writers, and a compelling account of Price’s learning what it means for him to be ‘native to a place.’”—Walter Isle, Great Plains Quarterly

— Walter Isle

Choice

"In consecutive chapters about nature writers of the disappearing grasslands of the Great Plains, Price seamlessly combines several literary modes. . . . Price shows a talent for asking the right questions and for listening carefully and critically to his subjects."—Choice
Wapsipinicon Almanac

“From the first captivating ‘calligraphic figure of a blue heron’ the reader will be bound with Price on his journey to connect with the land. . . . Price’s personal and literary journey is a deftly woven tapestry that connects all who have chosen to rest for a moment or two in the great sea of grass, and invites those who have not to experience that natural history of the grasslands.”—Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft, Wapsipinicon Almanac

— Jean Snodgress Wiedenheft

The NCB News

"This 'memoir' is grassland exploration and ecology literature search at its best. . . . Price's insightful questions and sense of humor make the book's subject highly accessible and memorable. Great Plains enthusiasts, as well as those wanting to understand this often-overlooked region. . . .'where surprises can live and grow,' will delight in his extensive use of quotations from well-known writers."—Twyla Hansen, The NCB News

— Twyla Hansen

The Manhattan Mercury

“Price cleverly invites his readers to join him, as he drives across the plains, visiting and interviewing those prairie conservationists whose books he has admired. Along the way, he integrates his own thinking, his reading of the prairie classics into the conversations that he has with his unseen readers. . . . The message of Not Just Any Land is idealistic, emotional, and strongly appealing, presented with good humor and a living perspective.”—Glenn M. Busset, The Manhattan Mercury

— Glenn M. Busset

North Dakota History

"Ultimately, Price's journey brings him home as a member of a community committed to prairie restoration. His book, with its vision of prairie diversity and faith in our potential for rebalancing the relationship between humanity and the natural world, stands as a testament to possibility."—Linda Helstern, North Dakota History

— Linda Helstern

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803260269
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


John Price is an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His essays on nature have appeared, among other places, in Orion, The Christian Science Monitor, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 The First Miracle of the Prairie: Buffalo Gap, South Dakota 1
Ch. 2 Reaching Yarak: The Peregrinations of Dan O'Brien 31
Ch. 3 Not Just Any Land: Linda Hasselstrom at Home 65
Ch. 4 Native Dreams: William Least Heat-Moon and Chase County, Kansas 93
Ch. 5 A Healing Home: Mary Swander's Recovery among the Iowa Amish 159
Ch. 6 What this Prairie Will Awaken: Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge 199
Notes 213
Bibliography 221
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