"A PLACE IN SPACE: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds" by Gary Snyder

"A PLACE IN SPACE: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Watersheds"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Snyder's longtime concerns with ecology, Zen Buddhism, Native American culture, nature writing, and poetry intermix in these varied short essays, gathered slightly indiscriminantly from over his career. Snyder's watersheds metaphorically stand for the environmentalism he espouses: humans, flora, and fauna living in ""wild"" egalitarianism in bioregions, ""the first and last nations whose boundaries . . . are inarguable."" His favorite bioregions range from the ecological (his eco-homestead in the Sierras) to the cultural (San Francisco during his early years and, later, Japanese Zen monasteries). In Snyder's explorations, the disparate principles of Zen Buddhism, Indian mythology, Shamanism, and Chinese poetry cohere into a simple, sincere, and rich way of life--at once moral, artistic, and practical. Unfortunately, in the brief pieces here, culled from forewords, conference talks, anthology contributions, and previous books of his, Snyder's expansive thinking and passionate arguments get too cramped and truncated, unlike in his discourse The Practice of the Wild (1990). His manifesto ""Four Changes"" and speeches for Earth Day and other ecological conferences are the weakest here, with oversimplifications and simply garbled versions of archaelogy, economics, and politics--shorthand preaching for the converted. Some of the better longer pieces on ecological activism come from his volume The Old Ways, but new writings included here transplant their generalized dicta to California. Although his pieces on ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Beat poets tend to be more introductory than informative, his hipster versions of myths, ""Smokey the Bear Sutra"" and ""The Incredible Survival of Coyote,"" and his nature pieces have the sort of wildness he champions--free, vital, and illuminating--but are a bit too sparse on the ground. This slightly recycled collection of footnotes and field notes (the first volume from Counterpoint) covers much territory, mapping out a few good pieces but not a wholly cohesive tract.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: "Counterpoint (1627 I St., NW, Washington, DC 20006)"