FIELD NOTES: Stories by Barry Lopez
Kirkus Star


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In this extraordinary collection, the final installment of a trilogy begun with Desert Notes (1976) and River Notes (1979), National Book Award winner Lopez (for Arctic Dreams, 1986) continues to use nature to teach us about ourselves. Each of the 12 stories in this slim volume creates a mystical world from everyday lives, depicting men and women coming up against situations with which they find themselves surprisingly unequipped to deal. As each character struggles to cope with predicaments that range from failing professions to disintegrating families to death, guidance comes from nature: the song of a wren that leads a man lost in the desert to water (""Introduction: Within Birds' Hearing""); the wildflowers that lead an estranged botanist back to his wife and daughter (""Homecoming""). Often a story revolves around a protagonist learning to let go of convention in order to hear nature. This listening can be approached directly, as when an old friend tries to convince the head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize that ""our biology is unraveling in a holocaust of extinct species"" and declare the ferruginous hawk an endangered species (""Conversation""). But Lopez does an even better job of illuminating the wisdom of nature when he offers ways of listening that are more like dreaming. For example, a wildlife biologist studying an arctic oasis learns the sorrow of modern animals when he discovers a land where only the souls of those killed properly (when the hunter prays after the kill) can come to search for new bodies (""Pearyland""), and a pack of wolverines teach an Alberta hunter why they don't want to be trapped (""Lessons from the Wolverine""). Through it all, Lopez's prose reads like poetry. His short, simple, and profound tales convey a deep respect for the environment and for the beauty of relationships, knowledge, language, and love. Haunting, seductive, and sensual.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1994
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Knopf