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About This Life

The acclaimed National Book Award winner gives us a collection of spellbinding new essays that, read together, form a jigsaw-puzzle portrait of an extraordinary man. With the publication of his best-selling Of Wolves and Men, and with the astonishing originality of Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez established himself as that rare writer whose every book is an event, for both critics and his devoted readership. Now, in About This Life, he takes us on a literal and figurative journey across the terrain of autobiography, assembling essays of great wisdom and insight. Here is far-flung travel (the beauty of remote Hokkaido Island, the over-explored Galapagos, enigmatic Bonaire); a naturalist's contention (Why does our society inevitably strip political power from people with intimate knowledge of the land small-scale farmers, Native Americans, Eskimos, cowboys?); and pure adventure (a dizzying series of around-the-world journeys with air freight everything from penguins to pianos). And here, too, are seven exquisite memory pieces hauntingly lyrical yet unsentimental recollections that represent Lopez's most personal work to date, and which will be read as classics of the personal essay for years to come. In writing about nature and people from around the world, by exploring the questions of our age, and, above all, by sharing a new openness about himself, Barry Lopez gives us a book that is at once vastly erudite yet intimate: a magically written and provocative work by a major American writer at the top of his form."
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About the Author

Barry Lopez is the author of six works of nonfiction and eight works of fiction. His writing appears regularly in Harper's, The Paris Review, DoubleTake, and The Georgia Review. He is the recipient of a National Book Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and other honors. He lives in western Oregon.


Contemplating forces physical and metaphysical within the natural landscape, veteran author and National Book Award-winner Lopez (Arctic Dreams, etc.) here taps personal and collective memory to create an intimate history of man and place. In these 13 essays, most of which have appeared in periodicals like Harper's (where Lopez is a contributing editor) and the Geogia Review, he reveals a mind that is energetically curious, repeatedly making a 10-hour round-trip to kiln-fire pottery in a tradition that catches his interest, or taking a marathon trip involving 40 consecutive air-freight flights in order to explore worldwide exporting and importing. But, on the latter trip, he stops for a sunrise walk in Seoul to see "things that could not be purchased," and, in another essay, quietly meditates on the power of hands. This dichotomy reflects the world traveler who is nevertheless rooted to a particular piece of land in western Oregon, someone whose mind encompasses the grand and the truly particular. To really understand a specific geography, he notes, takes time. Lopez has the kind of intimacy, of immersion, that makes the most ordinary encounter extraordinary. He deciphers nature's enigmatic intimations, as when he compares two proximate but distinct environments, saying: "The shock to the senses comes from a different shape to the silence, a difference in the very quality of light, in the weight of the air." For Lopez, the world's topography is memory made manifest; it stimulates Lopez's own recall and that, in turn, forces us to really think. (June)

"The narrative sings with conviction .... I enjoyed this rich book hugely." - The New York Times Book Review "Lopez crosses disciplines the way he conquers continents." - The Wall Street Journal "Contemplative and poetic, sometimes even mystical.-- Lopez feels a deep spiritual connection to the natural world." - San Francisco Chronicle

Lopez (The Grace Note of the Canyon Wren, LJ 9/1/94) has won numerous honors and awards for his nonfiction and fiction writing, primarily on natural history and the environment. Four of the 17 essays in this new anthology are newly written for this collection. The others have appeared previously, in slightly different forms and sometimes under different titles, in such publications as Harpers, North American Review, and Rocky Mountain magazine, spanning the period 1981-98. The introduction, called "The Voice," is autobiographical. The essays were chosen, the author says, "to give a sense of how one writer proceeds, and they are reflective of my notion of what it means to travel." Although they are not arranged chronologically, the reader does see the young Notre Dame student who speeds across Indiana in his brother's powerful Corvette develop into the observant writer who visits Japan, the Galapagos, and the Arctic. Of interest to public or academic libraries.ÄNancy Patterson Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, NC

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