The Barnes & Noble Review
Here is Terry Tempest Williams at her best. Sometimes subtly, sometimes emphatically, these delicate and heart-stoppingly lovely essays are offered in service of the wild. This compendium, she writes, "is a gesture and bow to my homeland" -- Utah's Redrock Desert, which, as of the September 2001 publication date, was to be opened up to oil drilling under the Bush/Cheney energy plan.
Yes, Red is nature writing; yes, it is memoir. And it is far, far more: the finest of literature, a new and shimmering philosophy of the sacred, deep ecology rendered as womanly experience. Be prepared to encounter a most unusual eroticism of the wild -- an eroticism that is outspokenly sexual but does not feed on flesh-to-flesh contact. Earth is William's beloved; the imagined and the mystical merge with the real.
Not once, but three times, and in response to distinct essays, I found myself scribbling notes the likes of, "No more elegant and moving support of wilderness has ever been written than this." Like her mentor, Aldo Leopold, Williams is both advocate and activist. This manifesto is neither polemic nor plea. As the subtitle suggests, her advocacy is an unrestrained passion that draws strength from the patience of rocks -- redrock, red hot.
"As we step over the threshold of the twenty-first century," she writes, "let us acknowledge that the preservation of wilderness is not so much a political process as a spiritual one, that the language of law and science used so successfully to define and defend what wilderness has been in the past century must now be fully joined with the language of the heart to illuminate what these lands mean to the future." Terry Tempest Williams does just that, in service of the wild, in service of her cherished Redrock
wildlands. (Connie Barlow)
Shaped by wind, heat and the etchings of rare water, the deserts of the American West are at the heart of Williams's numerous writings on the need to preserve wilderness (Leap; Refuge). This new collection of writings (some of which have been published before) is inspired by her daily experiences with the Southwestern desert, Anasazi petroglyphs and small shifts in time at her home outside Moab, Utah. Contributing to the movement to protect these fragile landscapes, she encourages her readers to consider the desert as a threatened national commons, drawing in the life around her to express just how the desert inhabits her and makes her more human. Included here are two of the works that have defined Williams as a central voice in the environmental movement: "Desert Quartet," which is made up of simple and erotic personal essays, and "Coyote's Canyon," comprised of the lovely tales of desert people. To these she adds pieces that center on her move out of Salt Lake City, her study of the meanings of the color red and, most importantly, the imperative to create national protection for land that cannot protect itself from each step of development and population growth. Although there are repetitions between the sections and at times Williams sounds desperate, the collection resonates with an inspiring and convincing devotion that cannot be set aside. (Sept. 19.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The red rock country of the Southwest, with its baroque landscapes and arid climate, incites a passionate response in many visitors. Terry Tempest Williams, a Utah native, has this land in her blood, heart, and soul. This compilation of short pieces communicates to the rest of us the unique value of this land and, despite its harsh and unforgiving aspects, its tender fragility. The last time the Four Corners was in the national news, President Clinton declared the Grand Staircase-Escalante Wilderness a national monument, to howls of protest from groups who wanted the land available for uses other than recreation and preservation. One of the purposes of the current book is to promote the preservation of a much wider swath of slick rock country across southern Utah. Although the book includes the text of the proposed act of Congress and the addresses of almost two dozen advocacy groups, the heart of Williams's approach is personal, idiosyncratic, and, as she emphasizes, erotic. She loves this land whose wildness puts her in touch with her most primal nature. To involve us in the land, she shares Coyote stories from Native American tradition, incidents from her own life, and appreciations of older writers on the environment, especially Mary Austin, author of The Land of Little Rain (1903), and Aldo Leopold, author of Sand County Almanac (1943). But the heart of the book is the ecstatic, ruminative, urgent appreciations of the land she knows so well. For readers who know the red rock country, her words will spark visual and visceral memories. For those not familiar with the place, Williams hopes to engender a longing to preserve it for future generations. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended forsenior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, Vintage, 271p. map., Healy
Williams is at her best as a storyteller and nature writer in this plea for preservation of the Redrock Desert and canyon area of southern Utah. An award-winning author (Leap, Refuge) and passionate wilderness advocate, Williams invites readers into a stark landscape, lush with color, through stories, essays, and congressional testimony. She challenges America's short-sightedness on land use, suggesting that people exercise restraint or, as she quotes Aldo Leopold, practice intellectual humility. We must realize that not every place should be developed and understand what is lost when we destroy the "wide open vistas that sustain our souls, the depth of silence that pushes us toward sanity." She explores the erotic side of nature, that which awakens our capacity to love, and sees our determination to control nature as a reluctance to touch our creative forces and to engage our souls. An appendix with the proposed Redrock Wilderness Act, a map, and a list of supporting organizations is included. Last year's T.H. Watkins's The Redrock Chronicles also discusses the environmental dilemma, providing photos of the places mentioned here. Moving and provocative, Williams's compact book is essential for nature collections; also recommended for general collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/01; this work contains Williams's Coyote's Canyon and Desert Quartet in their entirety. Ed.] Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ., Sault Ste. Marie, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From naturalist Williams (An Unspoken Hunger, 1994, etc.), a powerful and lyrical collection ranging from sudden pieces of fiction and hip-shooting creative nonfictions to manifestos and eroticism, all taking their cues from the American Southwestern deserts. From a tough, sere, minimal place, Williams offers these testimonial, protective essays. The desert has undone her, she has sung its praises long and hard, and here she continues her canon of stories that animate the countryside. As a poet of place she abides, calling on all that restores and redeems in the landscape. It might be an organic dance on a high plateau, or flute music spilling through the night while she camps at the foot of Keet Seel, or an anything-but-simple list of place names: Sewemup Mesa, Box-Death Hollow, Diamond Breaks, Lampstand, Gooseneck. These are creation stories in the sense that they create within the reader a respect for a place. Williams reads character lines in the topography; she experiences the land bodily and slowly. She invites the canyon and wash and mesa right into the family, as ancestral as any great grandmother. She makes it understandable how a desert might conjure feelings of empathy, desire, and humility. Polemical forays, by contrast, are not her strong suit: arguments supporting the protection of place cannot rest on such leaps of faith as a landscape "reminding us through its bloodred grandeur just how essential wild country is to our psychology," or non sequiturs like "it's hard to take yourself very seriously when confronted face-to-face with a mountain lion." (Mortality is, after all, a fairly serious business.) And to say "there's so much land, stretches of land so vast youcannot see it all, certainly not in a lifetime" weirdly echoes antienvironmentalists' notions of infinite resources, endless frontiers. It is heart-gladdening to know that someone of Williams's passionate conviction and transporting prose is striving to protect the redrock.
“Lush elegies to the wilderness. . . . Earthy, spiritual, evocative.” –The Boston Globe
“Erotic, scientific, literary. . . . Her intimacy with this landscape is complex and passionate.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Her finest writing . . . Use[s] pure language in the face of laws that need to be changed and lawmakers and citizens who need to understand that there is another way to see.” –Portland Oregonian
“Williams is one of the world’s most poetic and daring nature writers.” –Ruminator Review