Notes on recent reading by Scott Russell Sanders:
Having recently finished a new book of nonfiction, I am taking a vacation from the essay by writing a sequence of short stories. This project has led me to read or reread fiction in which the characters and events are powerfully influenced by natural settings. The works that have stirred me most deeply include Wallace Stegner’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain, Angle of Repose, and Crossing to Safety; Jim Harrison’s Dalva, True North, and Return to Earth; Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth, Fidelity, and Jayber Crow; and Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, which is a reworking of his trilogy, Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man’s River, and Bone by Bone. I’ve also been rereading Chekhov’s stories, for the sake of his broad social vision and his compassionate treatment of characters, and I’ve been reading for the first time story collections by Charles Baxter.
My thinking about the parlous state of the world has been clarified by Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future and Edward O. Wilson’s The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. My hopes for our species have been strengthened by Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World and by Robert Michael Pyle’s Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place. I’ve also been heartened by In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helens, a volume edited by Charles Goodrich, Kathleen Dean Moore, and Frederick J. Swanson.
While I read articles about politics on-line, I read few books on the subject, because they tend to date quickly. However, recently I did read with interest Road from Ar Ramadi by Camilo Meija, one of the first Iraq veterans to become a conscientious objector
Reading Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2003 by Robert Hass sent me back to reread his The Essential Haiku, which in turn sent me back to reread Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to the North and Other Writings and David Hinton’s Mountain Home: The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China. These Asian or Asian-influenced poems set just the right mood for reading Gary Snyder’s recent collection of essays, Back on the Fire.