WRITING FROM THE CENTER by Scott Russell Sanders


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Heavy-handed preaching by a self-appointed guardian of traditional midwestern values and environmental concerns. In these 12 essays, most previously published in The Ohio Review, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere, Sanders (English/Indiana Univ., Bloomington; Staying Put, 1993, etc.) seeks a moral and spiritual ""center"" based upon a web of familial, local, and environmental relationships. The sentiments put forth in essay after essay show a great and worthy concern for the sad state of the natural world but ignore the existence of human beings outside of the author's wife, children, and neighbors: There is no sense that Sanders feels himself at all a member of a more global community. While each essay is supposedly grounded in the details of Sanders's own life, in the majority these particulars seem like artificial constructs erected to showcase his didactic whining. There are, however, a few welcome exceptions. These are ""Imagining the Midwest,"" in which the literary and artistic weaknesses of the largest area in the United States are looked at clearly and unsentimentally, tracing the historically mixed feelings of writers, from Mark Twain to Jane Smiley, for their native soil; and ""Voyageurs"" and ""Letter to a Reader,"" in which Sanders's technique of examining the social and natural worlds in light of his personal experience and insight actually succeeds. ""Voyageurs"" recounts a canoeing trip with the author's daughter that took him through a range of emotions, from love to terror to fear for the disappearing landscape. ""Letter to a Reader"" follows Sanders's past as a writer, showing the influences in his life, from parents to pysics to Wendell Berry, as well as the origins of his love for small-town life and the environment, without ever straying into the soap-box type histrionics that plague so much of this book. Repetitive self-righteous indignation on behalf of the environment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0253211433
Page count: 211pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.