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World Literature Today - July-August 2008

  • Issue Number: Volume 82 Number 4
  • Published Date: July/August 2008
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

“Literature Goes Green” is the theme of this issue of WLT, with Laird Christensen’s essay, “Writing Home in a Global Age,” setting a pivotal tone. In it, he comments on the contemporary writer’s focus on local place when there are many more global issues at hand that need our attention. Bill McKibben, for example, has gone local while the rest of us are just now ‘getting it’ – the alarm of global concern he sounded two decades ago in his book The End of Nature. Christensen argues that this more microscopic shift is necessary, brought on by our own “voluntary placelessness in removing ourselves from the land and how we see the bioregion in which we live.” This lack of connection to place has allowed us to treat that which sustains us so poorly. With no sense of place, we have no sense of responsibility. Yet, this local literature is often treated as second-rate. Christensen counters this attitude: “The bulk of place-based writing, no matter how local, deals in universals, for we are all in desperate need of examples that show us how to belong.” This essay, as well as the whole issue, would be a powerful addition to any curriculum that includes nature, environmental, or place-based writing.

Remaining on local place and environment, Mark Tredinnick’s non-fiction piece “Nursery of Fire” is a scenic chronicle of the Australian bioregion in which he lives, noting sights, sounds, names, and the truly awesome act of fire. Like the very element, his writing is consuming, and I found myself so deeply rapt in the down under, that when he slipped in the death of his child just as he so matter-of-factly and observantly wrote of the valleys and wind and fire, I was struck with a sadness that felt more holistic than I have known in reading such accounts before. I could not separate this human from the landscape, each joined in the act of survival existence.

The joy in reading a publication like WLT is the introduction to a globally wide range of authors and works. Where else can you get this? Bruce Allen discusses the work of Japanese author Michiko Ishimure, describing the novelist’s style as mythopoetic, merging “storytelling, myths, and social commentary, with a particular attention to the world of sounds, nature and dreams.” Excerpts translated by Allen are provided with additional commentary.

Anna Paterson’s familiarity with the works of Swedish author Kerstin Ekman provides a deeply satisfying look at her latest book, Masters of the Forest. This is followed by an interview with Ekman focused on key issues to her life and work: environmentalism and conservation.

Lastly, Robert Day’s essay, “Wind, Water, Fact, and Fiction,” is a must read for teachers. I can already see using this with students to help them make connections between what they read and where they live in ways I had never before considered, and now seem so obvious.

More, there’s always more – poetry, photography, and dozens of book reviews of works from around the world by reviewers as geographically vast. I cannot imagine ever having been able to travel so far in so few pages in my life. And in a world of so much disconnect (regardless of all of our technology), how heartening to find the strength of connection through literature. Of course.

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Review Posted on July 13, 2008

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