HUNTING FOR HOPE by Scott Russell Sanders


A Father's Journeys
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A beautifully written tribute to natural beauty, addressed by a tree-hugging hippie dad to his Generation X son. The last time we followed a father and son traveling this profoundly was in Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. While Pirsig called on technology in his search for the sublime, Sanders remains very much the steadfast Romantic anti-technologist (evoking shades of Thoreau and Emerson). This philosophical book’s occasion involves his very ’90s son Jason, who, at 17, is weary of hearing his father criticize every aspect of our current, coarse lack of interest in the environment. After all, it is hard to keep up with such a sensitive and erudite father, and so Jason ends up walking ahead of his dad on their excursion to the Rocky Mountains. When he accuses the elder Sanders of darkening their world unduly with bleak complaints, the author realizes that his son is partly right to carp about all of Sanders’s carping. He then tries to make up for it, panning persuasively for hope in nature. He peppers his prose with quotes from a wide range of writers, especially the great naturalists and Romantics; cites examples of ecosystems or species that are now actually rebounding; and wins from Jason a temporary truce. Sanders truly communes with the natural world, reveling in its simplicity and wild charms. Still, despite the book’s premise as a response to the Jasons of this world, Sanders fails to reckon seriously with his boy, just as he grows maudlin about his daughter’s very conventional wedding. For Sanders, as for Keats, beauty is truth. But his amoral vision makes him a more cogent artist than teacher—except for die-hard Romantic readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8070-6324-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998


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