The story Eating is going to hold a special, special place in my heart. This is my country, he said.
You kinda finish these up and think "he's my hero" then you rethink what you read and realize "he's really no different than I would be in his shoes-----he's just dang good at putting thoughts into action through his words". While I certainly hold a different outlook on love than Bass displays in some of these stories, I think it took kahunas to try to adequately describe the emotions he let loose within these 10 stories.
Mostly I connect to the sense of place that Bass creates, even more than the characters. I am not a hunter, and I never will be, but when I read a Rick Bass story about a hunt, I come closer to understanding why some people do it.
You never quite escape the icey blue environment of the title story--it's like a skeleton key for whole collection.
There are people who used to be in love falling out of love and several stories about tough old men losing their virility. It had a different density to it, so that smaller, shallower breaths were required; there was very much the feeling that if they breathed in too much of the strange, dense air, they would drown." This story was too long and a bit boring, but it had my favorite nature descriptions. Bass grasps the relationship between the men well and I loved his description of Artie as a man that "doesn't know how to laugh. The necessity of the fires to keeping the marriage alive was an interesting thread and certainly provides the unity, but otherwise this was a very urban story (as opposed to the rural nature of all the others). I mean how many times can two people have sex underground and ride around on old boxcars before they start to panic about finding their way out. Real Town: Again, Bass touches on the absurd; Jick is creepy and I hated that he was gassing puppies, but I was really not sure why he had the narrator's hair. Two Deer: I think this was my least favorite story. It fell into the rural motif and followed the pattern of 20-something year married folks falling out of love (and trying to find the spark again), but mostly just felt like a rehash of the previous stories.
It's not that I do not enjoy nature, or that I particularly like being in these massive sanatoriums we call cities, but I find the sort of isolation that Bass has gone about creating in this collection extremely dismal. He is obsessed with places that are farflung from all human endeavors (save a lone woodsman or two) and so, Bass relies on his descriptions of these 'rugged pockets of wilderness' to stand as characters in their own right. Doe, fawn, elk, moose.' Of course, I'm being harsh on Bass, and this collection of stories is (for the most part) very well done, but it also bothers me when a piece of contemporary literature seems to disregard city/town/village/community life in favor of sprawling descriptions of wilderness. Heart of the matter: Bass' characters are trying to find a balance between nature and society, but are constantly coming up empty-handed.
What creates magic and wonder is the relationship between the individual and the world, not any transcendental reality.
He serves on the board of both the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Round River Conservation Studies and continues to live with his family on a ranch in Montana, actively engaged in saving the American wilderness.