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The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana Hardcover – July 1, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Novelist and naturalist Bass (The Lives of Rocks) gets up close and personal with local fauna, flora and folks in this account of the passing seasons in northwestern Montana's Yaak Valley wilderness range, where he and his family—four of the estimated 150 inhabitants of the half-a-million-acre region—have dwelled for 13 years. January is the dark month; March heralds the mud season; May brings hard rains and the first aspen buds. July and August are when fire, œa forest's breath, both renews the landscape and threatens homes. Come October, œa heroic fatigue sets in after spring's heady growth and summer's steady pace, and spirits surge on a brittle, sunny day in December. Bass complements naturalistic observations with anecdotes about his neighbors, like the accommodating old-timers who winch his truck out of a ravine. Throughout, the author anchors his celebration of nature's elegant order with his rhapsodic relationship to the wild marsh outside his writing cabin, and the uncompromising wilderness it represents. Bass has mined his valley for several other books, but there is no shortage of nature's grace for him to exalt. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Critically acclaimed writer Bass (The Book of Yaak) writes again about his beloved Yaak Valley, only this time with a sense of celebration as he ushers in the new millennium with a month-by-month record of observations, events, and thoughts from this remote, wild section of northwest Montana. He writes of each month's distinctive character—silent January, lusty May, and April, as we northern readers can attest to, the month of dashed hopes when sudden snowstorms hold spring at bay. Bass, whose life seems shaped by the Wendell Berry poem "The Peace of Wild Things," presents a work of wonder, praise, and thanksgiving for all the marvels of nature, where every aspect is connected and every process has its place. Bass, grounding his book in science well, takes the facts and transforms them, as a musician transforms musical notes, into a work of great beauty. This walk through a year is a walk through the author's soul, filled with passions, dreams, fears, and the exuberance of Walt Whitman. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/09.]—Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547055161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547055169
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

If this sounds like you, then I highly recommend the book.
Ken C.
The book is a celebration of life, death and the beauty of the seasons as Yaak interacts with the marvels that nature brings us if we but open our eyes and our hearts.
Deborah V
I found his writing both very dense and difficult to follow.
R. C Sheehy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on July 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this book, Rick Bass chronicles the seasons in his beloved Yaak valley. He's partly motivated by a fear that the nature in which he loves will be destroyed all too soon, so that someone with an observant eye should write it all down for future generations.

While Bass observes nature in the Yaak as the year progresses, this isn't a Montanan version of the Sand County Almanac. He spends much more time on human interactions with the natural world. Some of this, he admits, is navel-gazing; but much of it just tells the story of a human community that lives close to nature - - gathering berries, chopping wood for fuel, relying on autumn hunts for meat. The bulk of the book lies in its longest chapters, which reflect very human concerns: April (rebirth), July and August (wildfires), and November (hunting season).

Bass also muses on many purely human issues that follow the rhythm of the seasons. He is middle-aged and aware of aging and his own eventual death. He has buried his mother, and some friends. He has two daughters representing the next generation. Like many parents, he worries about the world in which his daughters will live.

If you've already read some of Bass's books, much will be familiar. In this book, however, I wish he had edited himself more forcefully. The book seems much too close to its origins as journal, just reporting the thoughts of the day. It doesn't tighten up those thoughts, revisit them - - or, most importantly, decide which thoughts need to be deleted as not fitting the themes he wishes to emphasize.

This could have been an interesting answer to Sand County Almanac, emphasizing the human role in nature, and the way that a human community lives and loves in a wild place. But it sprawls too much in its present form, and has too much navel-gazing. It would have benefitted from some sharp editorial scissors to release the great book that wants to be born here.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With Thoreau as his inspiration, Rick Bass tackles "Walden West" with this loving tribute to his home in the Yaak Valley, THE WILD MARSH. He writes from a cabin perched on the marsh and uses the calendar as a means of structuring the book, starting with January. Here we get detailed accounts of nature's every breath -- flora, fauna, and the fodder for thought that they cause.

Fans of Rick Bass and readers who enjoy nature essays will take to this book straight off. Other readers might enjoy it more as a "dip in" book rather than a "read cover to cover" book. That is, with his descriptions and ruminations so rich, readers could equally enjoy the book by, say, reading the month they are in or headed toward, then moving on to other books, then returning to this the next month. Here's a sample of Bass's style from the chapter "March":

"It's a joy to be out walking in the woods, traversing bare ground. I love winter, and snow, but cannot help but think of the bare earth as the "real" world. Some folks go out in early spring, hunting the winter-shed antlers of the deer to sell to curio shops and so forth, but I go simply out of pleasure, and perhaps worship: to see, and touch, the echo of the secret deer that have been passing through our forest. It's hard to describe, and harder to explain, the feeling of richness one gets, spying an antler just emerged from the snow: treasure, discovered."

You hear echoes of Thoreau when you see the word "worship" and the words "the echo of the secret deer." Nice stuff. Contemplative. This is not fast food. Like a walk in the woods, you need to be in the right mood to enjoy what it has to offer. You need to be inspired by a whole page dedicated to a deer's antler (or a painted turtle's carapace, or an aspen's bud). If this sounds like you, then I highly recommend the book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Nobles VINE VOICE on July 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have been a fan of Rick Bass for a number of years. I especially enjoyed his books titled "Oil Notes," "Platte River," and "Colter" in addition to his earlier works on the Yaak Valley. I also enjoyed this book but feel he has covered this territory in depth in his other books on the Yaak and this is an effort to just publish one more book.

There is no question the Yaak Valley is a special place deserving of a writer of Bass's talent but there is little new in this volume that is not contained in his earlier works on the subject. Perhaps had I not read his earlier efforts I would have enjoyed this book more and to be sure there are some wonderfully written, lyrical passages marking the four seasons of the year that will resonate with many readers. His chapters on each month of the year contain some really insightful, touching descriptions of a landscape and geography most of us will never encounter for any length of time. However, the book to me is a bit sad given Bass's 13 year unsuccessful effort to gain some type of federal protection or wilderness designation for his beloved valley. Given the tenor of his past books this one leaves me with the impression he is leaving a record of what was and could have been but probably will never be again.
Bass is, without question, one of the best environmental writers and thinkers practicing today. This book is more of a journal than a book of advocacy. A good read but contains material found in his earlier works.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By jd103 on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm very surprised by my rating for this book. Nature writing is my favorite genre and though I've never considered Bass in my highest group of favorites, I've owned four of his books and read many more through the library.

The introduction certainly seemed promising with discussion of the need to pass on information to the next generation about where to find the best berry patches and so on. He also writes there about whether and how much of Walden, a book of the east, applies to the west.

And I think it's his attempt to be a Thoreau of the west which makes this book a failure for me. There are specific Walden allusions, such as questioning if we are awake or sleeping, but mostly the problem for me was a writing style unlike his previous books. Paragraph-long sentences overflow with dashes and commas and asides until all the natural flow is lost. He just doesn't have the wit and intellect of Thoreau to pull this style off.

I'm no fan of the hunting which is always a part of Bass's books, but here he really seems to overdo it with hunter's rhetoric such as supposedly worrying about how the deer are escaping from the mountain lions in the deep snow, the same deer he has no problem killing himself.

The specifics promised in the introduction tend to get lost in lots of aimless introspection and spirituality. A lot of editing could have turned this long book into a fine book; as it stands, I'd stick to his earlier work.
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