MEETING THE TREE OF LIFE by John Tallmadge

MEETING THE TREE OF LIFE

A Teacher's Path
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A slight book of reminiscence, seemingly meant for English majors who love the outdoors. Tallmadge (Literature and Environmental Studies/Union Institute Graduate School) charts his academic course from campus to campus, teaching and learning. In his telling, his career seems unremarkable (he was denied tenure, about which he writes at some length), although he clearly knows his subject, American nature writing, and emerges as a committed and engaging teacher. His ``teacher's path'' becomes considerably more interesting when it departs from campus and heads for the mountains. There, in the Wasatch, the Wind River, the Appalachians, the Sierra Nevada, and other ranges, Tallmadge affectingly describes his search for a place to call home, which, he eventually realizes, is ``not a place one finds, but a place one makes.'' Along the way, the author discusses books and authors like Henry David Thoreau (whom he idolizes), Edward Abbey (whom he does not), and other important players in what he calls the ``infinite game of reading.'' The book is at its best at self-critical moments, such as when Tallmadge examines our latter-day nature-loving spirit in the light of the idealism of the '60s, when his contemporaries ``saw in the wilderness, with its healthy and interdependent communities, a model for just and sustainable human societies''--but then scorned the uninitiated who did not share their budding Green sensibilities. This volume is at its worst when Tallmadge falls into sentimentalizing about ``the wisdom and beauty of the land'' and the teacher's role in ``healing both society and the earth.'' This suffers from not treating any one of its many subjects at quite enough length. The result is neither a book of personal essays as such, nor a vade mecum for teachers, nor even a book about nature strictly defined, but a glancing coming-of-age story that is of narrow interest.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-87480-530-9
Page count: 218pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997