Synopses & Reviews
Barry Lopez asked 45 poets and writers to define terms that describe America's land and water forms phrases like flatiron, bayou, monadnock, kiss tank, meander bar, and everglade. The result is a major enterprise comprising over 850 descriptions, 100 line drawings, and 70 quotations from works by Willa Cather, Truman Capote, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, and others. Carefully researched and exquisitely written by talents such as Barbara Kingsolver, Lan Samantha Chang, Robert Hass, Terry Tempest Williams, Jon Krakauer, Gretel Ehrlich, Luis Alberto Urrea, Antonya Nelson, Charles Frazier, Linda Hogan, and Bill McKibben, Home Ground is a striking composite portrait of the landscape. At the heart of this expansive work is a community of writers in service to their country, emphasizing a language that suggests the vastness and mystery that lie beyond our everyday words.
"How to define an arroyo, badlands, eddy, a muskeg? What is a desire path, a kiss tank, a nubble? These words, many forgotten today, refer to various aspects of a landscape to which many of us have lost our connection. Drawing on the polyglot richness of American English, National Book Award winning author Lopez (Arctic Dreams) assembles 45 writers, known for their intimate connection to particular places, to collectively create a unique American dictionary. Barbara Kingsolver, William Kittredge, Arturo Longoria, Jon Krakauer, Bill McKibben, Antonya Nelson, Luis Alberto Urrea and Joy Williams, among others, vividly describe land and water forms. What is a cofferdam? 'Imagine a decorative wishing well, then imagine that well writ large,' notes Antonya Nelson. And Patricia Hampl tells us that the Dutch word vly (marshy headwaters of a stream) 'may have occasioned the name of New York's rowdy Fly Market' in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many entries quote American explorers and writers such as Herman Melville, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, as they uncover layers of etymology and American regional difference. Line drawings enhance geographic understanding; marginal quotations further evoke period and place. This marvelous book enlivens readers to the rich diversity of Americans' complex relationship to the land." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Tiny essays in the guise of definitions....The book is a way of reclaiming the language that gives definition to landscape from the denatured terms of modern public discourse. It celebrates specificity." New York Times
"Home Ground is a treasure house of a book, chocked with gems of the American vernacular....But to call this a reference work is to shortchange it the entries are written by some of our best writers, and the result is an unexpected page turner." Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma
"For anyone who loves words, the natural world, and the myriad forms of land and water, this book is an essential companion." Andrea Barrett, author of Servants of the Map
"The authors of Home Ground have made a heroic effort to recover the vocabularies and meanings we need to recognize and care for the lands we love. This is a book to savor like a fine wine." William Cronon, author of Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature
"This is a book for anyone who wants to learn more about America and its history, and to develop a better connection to both. Or for anyone who correctly wants to use such fine terms as 'dugout,' 'nubble' and 'boondocks.'" Seattle Times
With more than 850 descriptions, 100 line drawings, and 70 quotations from works by Willa Cather, Truman Capote, John Updike, and others, this landmark work of language geography features a community of writers who describe America's landscape in descriptive terms.