VIRGIN FOREST by Eric Zencey


Meditations on History, Ecology and Culture
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These ruminations from Zencey (Panama, 1995)--on the flow of time, the intimacy of place and self-knowledge, the importance of the long view and responsibility--have seen a lot of previous weather; indeed, many seem to have gathered a bit of rust. Zencey’s youthful vision was shaped by such environmental activists and theorists as E.F. Schumacher, Murray Bookchin, and Barry Commoner. He was drawn to their writings on decentralization and equity, their railings against industrial anonymity and toxic waste. They touch him still, but Zencey is no longer waiting for the revolution; he’s had it with the dictatorship of spontaneity. He’s entered the river of history: “The richest life, it seems to me, is lived in an awareness of the maximum number of connections backwards and forwards in time.” And those connections he finds in the writings of others. Here he tenders short essays, for example, on entropy as metaphor, where he makes no headway against the notoriously inscrutable second law of thermodynamics (but lets readers know that he has read everyone from Pythagoras to Pynchon on it); on the role of the hunter and on the sacramental and redemptive qualities of hunting; on the increasingly cosmopolitan character of academia and its subsequent loss of “territory, home range, and locale,” leading to an ignorance of nature (Aldo Leopold and David Orr are called as witnesses); and on the importance of nobility over innocence in the ecological mindset (Reinhold Niebuhr, Kant, and the Amish all offer expert testimony). Certainly, Zencey is well read, but that very quality gives a derivative feel to this collection; his references don’t make cameo appearances, they serve as proofs positive, and precious little ground is newly tilled. As in his search for a patch of virgin forest, Zencey is unsure of himself. He wants others—be it John McPhee or Paul Feyerabend or his graduate advisor—to point his way. Intelligent but rather unmoving work.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8203-1989-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998