DWELLINGS: Reflections on the Natural World by Linda Hogan

DWELLINGS: Reflections on the Natural World

Email this review


Seventeen often accusatory essays on man's relationship with nature by Native American poet and novelist Hogan (Mean Spirit, 1990, etc.). Hogan tells stories about the beauty of an eagle feather, a wolf's fur, and copulating bats; about the creation myths of the Maya, the innate understanding of animals, the femaleness of caves. She stresses the need to respect the natural world, citing models from ancient folkloric sources to modern science. In Nobel Prize--winning biologist Barbara McClintock, for example, Hogan finds an ideal melding of tradition and science; she claims that McClintock's method was ""to listen to what corn had to say, to translate what the plants spoke into a human tongue."" Regarding scientists who do not care for their subjects, however, Hogan has harsh words, as she does for many and varied aspects of Western culture. Bubbling up from the midst of her reflections is an undisguised and virulent anger--an understandable one, given the way American Indians have been mistreated by non-Natives and the way their environment and lifestyle were destroyed by a culture that valued the earth differently. Still, Hogan occasionally pushes the reader too far with her one-sided view, blaming Western ideas for everything that is evil, as when she writes that ""the Western belief that God lives apart from earth is one that has taken us toward collective destruction."" And many readers will not sympathize with Hogan's mystical bent; even those who respect her cultural heritage will have trouble accepting the story that she found her granddaughter's missing umbilical cord, which Hogan had been saving according to tradition, with the aid of a holy man and an eagle feather in a place Hogan had checked innumerable times before. Some fine insights obscured by the large chip on the author's shoulder.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton