LAST BEAUTIFUL DAYS OF AUTUMN
by John Nichols
Ancient City Press, 2000.
In the early 1980s, novelist John Nichols wrote a trilogy of memoirs about his adopted home: Taos, New Mexico. At the heart of the trilogy is this masterpiece, The Last Beautiful Days of Autumn, which revels in the ripe, earthy fullness of the season tainted with the bittersweet awareness of waste and decay and inevitable death.
Nichols writes as a man in love with life lived out in the open, exposed to the elements and enriched by them. Like a young lover, he is by turns both bawdy and sensitive. He describes the Southwestern heaven as "so blue you could eat it on a silver spoon and shit perfect periwinkles for a week." Then, in another essay he spends hours watching cloud formations:
"Utterly fascinated, I watched a cloud tear apart, undergoing mitosis I suppose, until it had dispersed into shapeless wisps about to evaporate. But then the winds reversed direction, and all those dissolving filaments, as if in a film being run backward, rebunched together, forming nearly the same-shaped cloud that I had seen disintegrate."
This volume of Nichols' memoirs is a paean to crisp mornings, cutting firewood, fishing, falling leaves, hunting, scrambling through desert canyons and climbing mountain peaks. It is also about memorable characters with a similar closeness to nature and a lust for living.
Spiced with melancholic decay and open-faced joy, it is best read in a mature season, preferrable late autumn.
The Last Beautiful Days of Autum : A Memoir
by John Nichols.
Ancient City Press, 2000. $14.95
|THE MONK IN
The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel
by Robin Marantz Henig
Houghton Mifflin, 2000
New York Times (Joe Cain)
The Monk in the Garden by Robin Marantz Henig
Road Guide USA
North American Guide to Nude Recreation
Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Brad Knickerbocker reports that for many contemporary nature writers, the environment is more than just a setting. It is a character, a part of the plot and, sometimes, even the protagonist of a story.
"This broadened view of nature writing, coupled with the growth in environmental activism (particularly since the first Earth Day in 1970), has led to a new academic discipline called eco-criticism," Knickerbocker writes.
"The number of scholars now focusing on this
area has grown from just 30 as recently as 1992 to more than 1,000 today.
Most are Americans (and most of them are here in the West), but interest
is growing abroad - particularly in England and Japan."
Norton Book of Nature Writing edited by Robert Finch and John Elder
All literature, by illuminating
the full nature of human
In our age, that question has
taken its most urgent form in
|NEW NATURAL HISTORIES
View from Bald Hill
Hardcover. 464 pages. $79.96
|NEW NATURE WRITING
NATURAL HISTORIES AND NATURE WRITING
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