Naturalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary
wrote: "Thoreau says 'give me a wilderness no civilization can
endure.' That's clearly not difficult to find. It is harder to imagine a civilization
that wildness can endure, yet this is just what we must try to do." Like
all great nature writers, Terry
Tempest Williams has made it her life's work to help imagine such a civilization.
In her many books, she has revealed the connections between imagination and
spirituality, between the stories we tell ourselves and the way we perceive
and respond to the wilderness that sustains us. She writes with
equal eloquence about the joy and solace she finds in the pristine open spaces
of her native Utah, and the grief she feels for our careless destruction of
these places. Her 1991 book Refuge:
An Unnatural History of Family and Place
, which recorded the simultaneous
tragedies of her mother's death from cancer and the tragic destruction of a
vibrant bird sanctuary, is today widely regarded a classic of nature writing,
one to put on the shelf next to Walden
, and A
Sand County Almanac
. Her latest book, Red: Passion and Patience in the
, is a collection of essays exploring the importance of Utah's redrock
wilderness to the soul of the nation. With the concept of "wild mercy"
for a touchstone, Williams discusses issues of politics, poetics, and place
with grace and humor, as well as a sincere desire to surmount polemics. In a
letter to a friend, she writes, "I write to make peace with the things
I cannot control. I write to create red in a world that often appears black
and white." Farley, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"It is a simple equation," writes Terry Tempest Williams, "place + people = politics." Nowhere is this more apparent than in the American West, where millions of acres of wilderness are at stake in the redrock desert of southern Utah. How are we to find our way toward conversation? she asks. One story at a time. Red
traces Williamss lifelong love of and commitment to the desert, as she explores what draws us to a place and keeps us there. It brings together the lyrical evocations of Coyotes Canyon and Desert Quartet with new essays of great power and originality, essays that range from a family discussion on the desert tortoise to an investigation of slowness to startling encounters with Anasazi artifacts (including a ceremonial sash made of scarlet macaw feathers).
Pursuing the question of why America's redrock wilderness matters to the soul of this country, Red bridges the divide between the political and the poetic and shows how this harshest and most fragile of landscapes inspires a soulful return to "wild mercy." The preservation of wildness is not simply a political process but a spiritual one.
With grace, humor, and the subtleties of her perception, Williams reminds us of what we have forgotten in the chaos of our lives and what can be reclaimed in the stillness of the desert.
Red is further proof that the writings of Terry Tempest Williams possess a revelatory power and an emotional intelligence at once rare and authentic.
"From naturalist Williams, a powerful and lyrical collection ranging from sudden pieces of fiction and hip-shooting creative nonfictions to manifestos and eroticism, all taking their cues from the American Southwestern deserts....These are creation stories in the sense that they create within the reader a respect for a place....She makes it understandable how a desert might conjure feelings of empathy, desire, and humility." Kirkus Reviews
"Williams is at her best as a storyteller and nature writer in this plea for preservation of the redrock desert and canyon area of southern Utah....She challenges America's short-sightedness on land use, suggesting that people exercise restraint or, as she quotes Aldo Leopold, practice intellectual humility....Moving and provocative, Williams's compact book is essential for nature collections." Library Journal
"Much of the story in Red involves William's rhapsodic descriptions of excursions, either herself in first person or third-person accounts of nameless women in search of spiritual guidance and affirmation, into Utah's redrock country. And it's here that the book derives its power: from the author's intense Whitman-like celebrations and reflections on the land she knows so well...." Andrew Roe, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review*
About the Author
Terry Tempest Williams is the author of Leap and Refuge. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she lives with her husband, Brooke Williams, in Grand County, Utah.