LETTERS FROM A WILD STATE: Rediscovering Our True Relationship to Nature by James Cowan

LETTERS FROM A WILD STATE: Rediscovering Our True Relationship to Nature

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cowan, an Australian poet, here attempts a ""correspondence with [him]self"" aimed at comparing the ""metaphysical terrain"" of the Australian Aborigines to the destructive materialism of Western civilization. The result is a series of meandering, baffling, and hyper-romantic meditations that fail to illuminate. ""Dear Friend,"" Cowan writes, ""It is questionable whether you will receive this letter at all since I am writing to you from the entrance to a cave."" The cave, revealed to the author by its Aboriginal custodians and decorated with human handprints and the image of the Rainbow Snake, sends our correspondent into paroxysms of adoration and undisciplined soul-searching--as does every other beast, insect, and rock formation he comes into contact with in the desert. Disparaging his life in the ""pollutant haze"" of urban ""highrise apartments,"" Cowan exhorts all of Western society to join him in embracing ""wildness"" as a philosophic premise before it's too late: to ""give up much of what we have acquired in the name of progress"" and ""rediscover the wild spirit of nature that lies in the fathomless gaze of all animals when they acknowledge us as being at one with them."" How the uninitiated are to do this is apparently beyond the scope of this book: Cowan's vague, self-referential interpretation of the Aboriginal worldview--as he shuns accounts of actual communications, rituals, stories, or practices that might be of concrete interest--obscures more than it reveals, and his enthusiasm for the natural life is expressed in the unrestrained, rococo language of a die-hard fan. An unfocused and tiresome compilation in which the ""great lesson all traditional peoples can teach us: how to protect who we are by protecting what made us"" is lost in the fog.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Bell Tower/Harmony