Books by Steve Chapple

Released: April 1, 1995

A provocative and controversial conservationist encapsulates his opinions and suggestions for restoring the health of a planet at risk. Brower (For Earth's Sake, 1990) has reached the ripe age of 82, and this slim volume feels like a swan song—or perhaps he might prefer to call it ``goose music,'' referring to the tonic of wildness that we all must hear, appreciate, and identify with in order to save our soiled Earth. Aided by Chapple (Kayaking the Full Moon, 1993), Brower runs through a handful of eco-ideas, some more familiar than others: putting boundaries around cities, linking protected animal havens to allow natural migration, encouraging eco-tourism, reining in our overuse of the automobile, and turning to solar power. He waxes enthusiastic on the subject of reducing forest consumption, and his own words are printed here on paper made from kenaf, a hibiscus relative whose development as a tree substitute might eventually protect our last acres of old-growth forest. Brower urges that efforts be made to promote ``CPR for the Earth'': conservation, preservation, and restoration. The book is a mother lode of quotable sayings from the man best known to readers from John McPhee's Encounters with the Archdruid, and sometimes style obscures content. Brower has a wonderful, folksy voice, and though he has more enemies than most conservationists, he has also become a mythic figure in the environmental movement—so it feels almost disloyal to note that a towering ego shows through his comments. In addition, the Archdruid's prescriptions are fairly vague, though it could be argued that this is a statement of personal mission, not a grant proposal. Unapologetic and defiant as ever, Brower has penned a manifesto for those who would pick up his torch. Whether his methods have been more help or hindrance to his cause is still to be decided. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 4, 1993

The longest free-flowing river in America serves as a questing ground for a careworn but game journey of homecoming and self- discovery. The idea was for Chapple (coauthor, Burning Desires, 1989; Don't Mind Dying, 1980) to kayak the length of the Yellowstone, source to mouth; to break loose from the honk and nonsense of city life; to get reacquainted with a land he'd left many years before; and to find a home for his family. But reality—in the guise of the mean Montana winter—came for an extended visit sometime in September. So the river journey—often tedious, luckless, and fractured—faded into the background, becoming here mostly a narrative device, a mooring around which the author hooks a miscellany of his fascinations: family history; dinosaur digs; bird watching; architectural tours; chats with ranchers and farmers; nature gazing. Chapple has a journalist's instinct for ferreting out background information, and each new town, battlefield, and outpost along his way has a history to be plumbed. These forays into the past make for some of the most enjoyable reading here (e.g., histories of Fort Buford and Fort Union), served forth in true campfire style. Meanwhile, ginger probings among the author's ancestors (including his father, who was 54 when Chapple was born, and who died alone) proved to be psychologically demanding, at times leaving the author in emotional tatters. But despite the vicissitudes of his journey, Chapple pulls off the rare feat of summoning a distinct sense of place: The Yellowstone comes together here as a whole—an ancient, living thing—with personalities as numerous as the types of landscape it crosses. Chapple finds his river of return, and he negotiates the scary parts with real flair. He even manages to reach the Missouri. Read full book review >