THE EDGES OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD by Alison Hawthorne Deming

THE EDGES OF THE CIVILIZED WORLD

A Journey in Nature and Culture
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Poet Deming (Temporary Homelands, 1994) heads selectively for sundry outbacks in the hope of tapping wisdom from them on the prospects for our wild and open lands. What is this thing we call civilization, she wonders, and how may it alter the fate of the earth? Is civilization basically an expression of optimism? Or is it mainly a destructive power? And can art—most notably poetry, for Deming a bastion of the “local, peculiar, off-kilter and half seen”—help to resolve so unwieldy a matter as the terms of our existence? To probe these not exactly petite questions, Deming stakes out patches on the wild and fragile edges of civilization—along the Sea of Cortez, in southern Mexico, on Hawaii—fault lines “where pressure constantly builds, where the impingement of economic necessity abrades against nature.” These are places “rich in life forms and survival strategies.” Said strategies often involve one of Deming’s nemeses: tourism, eco and otherwise. The author views tourism variously as a form of neocolonialism, forcing locals to serve outsiders— whims and desires; as a path leading away from resource destruction and toward global economic integration; as a fusion of each. While sojourning in her chosen outposts, she takes the measure of their gestalt. Deming’s verbal big pictures can also include a glimpse of the spirit passing across the land, most easily grasped when she has come upon a sacred place that calls on all her senses. A writer of skillful means and economy, Deming doesn’t enter such terrain lightly, nor does she trifle with it: —What I am calling for is an ecology of culture in which we look for and foster our relatedness across disciplinary lines without forgetting our differences.” (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-19543-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998




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