Vintage Books (A Division of Random House)
2004 ISBN 1-4000-3398-5
“What being a naturalist has come to mean to me, sitting my mornings and evenings by the river, hearing the clack of herons through the creak of swallows over the screams of osprey under the purl of fox sparrows, so far removed from White and Darwin and Leopold and even Carson, is this: Pay attention to the mystery. Apprentice to the best apprentices. Rediscover in nature your own biology. Write and speak with appreciation for all you have been gifted. Recognize that a politics with no biology, or a politics with no field biology, or a political platform in which human biological requirements form but one plank, is a vision of the gates of Hell.
These words form the final paragraph of “The Naturalist” an essay originally published in Orion magazine. The words sum up, to the extent that summation is possible, the writings of Barry Holstun Lopez. They finalize one of the many works reprinted in Vintage Lopez, a sort of literary retrospective including chapters and excerpts from several previous books. In turn, many of the books are collections of works previously published in periodicals. “The Naturalist” is the only one of these works not previously published in book form;
Lamentably, Vintage Lopez does not include any material from Of Wolves and Men, the non fiction book which first brought this notable author to my attention. Of Wolves and Men popularized Barry Lopez as a writer more than any other work. It was a recounting of what he learned accompanying wolf researchers on expeditions in the field.
Vintage Lopez does include a notable excerpt from Artic Dreams, the winner of the 1986 National Book Award and other honors. The publication of Arctic Dreams was the culmination of travels with scientists in Alaska and Northern Canada. It summarized their field studies of the native peoples of those lands. Vintage Lopez includes the introductory chapter from Arctic Dreams among its many excerpts from previous books. Vintage Lopez is the fifteenth book authored by Lopez. For those just beginning their exploration of the works of Barry Lopez, it is an excellent place to start.
-Reviewed by Ray Zimmerman