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ABOUT THIS LIFE by Barry Lopez


Journeys on the Threshold of Memory

by Barry Lopez

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-43454-2
Publisher: Knopf

National Book Award winner Lopez (Field Notes, 1994, etc.) explores the vivid edges of the world, beyond intellection, where memory takes hold and guides: “It is memory that carries the place, that allows it to grow in depth and complexity.” There are 18 essays here (a number of them previously published), creative nonfictions that range all over--Antarctica to northern Alaska, Hokkaido to southern California--for this is a collection of traveler’s tales. It is in the unfamiliar, where Lopez is kept attentive and off-balance and enchanted, open to having his perceptions altered, that he likes to be. On the other hand, he also recognizes, and in his wanderings seeks to tap into, the intuitive geographical genius of “men and women more or less sworn to a place, who abide there, who have a feel for the soil and history, for the turn of leaves and night sounds.” Lopez’s own particular genius--for discerning patterns and connections that eschew orthodoxy, that embrace the metaphorical clues about wild animals and landscapes captured in the local stories--is in full flourish throughout these pages, a natural flair for association that pings and pongs between flying tricksters and Blackfeet men with white ermine woven in their hair. There are also numerous forays back into his youth, to his mother’s death and his brief infatuation with automotive speed and being propositioned to murder an unfaithful lover--force fields in his own psychogeography--all swarming with beauty and darkness and mystery, the same elements he so respects in nature. Never far from hand is the certitude, and attendant quandaries, of a need for ethical leanings, social responsibility, a keen moral intelligence. The writing is, as ever, susurrous. Lopez ventures forth, hunts and gathers the sacred twinings of humanity and nature, and returns with stories as venerable as the best folktales. (Author tour)