North Enough: AIDS and Other Clear-Cutsby Jan Zita Grover
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
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."
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 differenteither 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 entailedhow much wood she burned in winter to keep warm, whether she had to fight off cabin feverto 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."
- Graywolf Press
- Publication date:
- 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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