Selected Essays
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Politically charged essays by the noted novelist and screenwriter.

One of the last of the '60s-era true believers, Nichols (Conjugal Bliss, 1993, etc.) has earned a strong reputation not only

for this Southwestern-set novels (the best known of them The Milagro Beanfield War), but also for his nature essays and

environmental polemics. This gathering of essays from the past three decades gives a glimpse of all of Nichols’s interests.

Alternately humorous and heavy-handed—and sometimes, as with an opening meditation on clouds, just silly—Nichols offers a

portrait of his development as a writer and regional activist. The strongest pieces in the book are those in which Nichols addresses

his sense of commitment to place—namely, to the high desert plateau of northern New Mexico, where Anglo transplants such

as himself live uneasily beside Hispanics who can chart their roots in the region back half a millennium and more. In one

particularly resounding essay, Nichols writes of the trouble he found himself in when the actor-director Robert Redford decided

to film The Milagro Beanfield War on location in the little New Mexico town of Truchas, whereupon "a few dozen tanned,

muscle-bound cocaine freaks wearing Acapulco sunglasses arrived in Santa Fe" and Hispanic activists protested—as, to no avail,

did Nichols—against a production whose lead actors were Panamanian, Brazilian, Italian-American, and Anglo, with only a few

extras drawn from the local populace. Not that he’s necessarily a regional chauvinist: Nichols writes of being, like everyone else,

a hybrid of many cultures, bloods, and influences: " a westerner, a southerner, an easterner, a New Englander, a Yankee, a rebel,

a gringo, a frog, an honorary Gallego." Elsewhere Nichols writes of the intellectual rewards of being a naturalist in a region rich

in natural beauty, of the pains of that avocation in a place constantly under threat of development, and of his growing awareness

of his own mortality, among many other subjects.

A real pleasure for fans of Nichols’s work.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8263-2182-8
Page count: 259pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000


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