- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Printing edition (August 13, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0547687125
- ISBN-13: 978-0547687124
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,562,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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All the Land to Hold Us: A Novel Hardcover – August 13, 2013
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*Starred Review* All that distinguishes Bass as a superb fiction writer of rare knowledge, unique sensibility, and profound imagination is present in this incandescent desert saga. Bass states his sonorous theme— A strange and powerful landscape summons strange and powerful happenings—and brings us to West Texas, where immense salt flats surround a salt lake, and oil and even more precious water pool beneath the sand sea. As Bass once was, Richard is a geologist working for an oil company and ardently reading the desert like a vast book of time. He is hopelessly in love with elusive Clarissa, and together in an erotic trance, they search for fossils in the dazzling heat and find eerier relics, the remains of wagon trains. Another couple living in another time on this bone-strewn land, a fanatic salt miner and his lonely wife, are abruptly transformed by the surreal arrival of an elephant in desperate need of rescue. Other iconic figures of peril, displacement, and wonder appear as Bass unearths astonishing pieces of forgotten history; tells the stories of an old treasure hunter, a renegade schoolteacher, and a daring artist; and dramatizes the devastation the demand for oil has wrought. Writing with rhapsodic intensity and cosmic attunement, Bass magnificently portrays an elemental place cherished by indomitable individuals seeking the sustaining essence of life. --Donna Seaman
From the Inside Flap
Rick Bass brings a lyrical lushness to the harsh backdrop of West Texas in his masterfully crafted fourth novel. All the Land to Hold Us is a sweeping tale of those who live on the deserts edge, where richesprecious artifacts, oil, water, lovecan all be found and lost again in an instant.
Roaming across the salt flats and skirting the salt lake, Richard, a geologist working for an oil company, hunts for fossils under the spell of Clarissa, the local beauty who plans to use her share of their plunder to get out of small, dusty Midland for good. A generation earlier, a Depression-era couple, Max and Marie Omo, numbly mines for salt along the banks of the briny lake until the emotional terrain of their marriage is suddenly and irrevocably altered. The strange, surreal arrival of a runaway circus elephant, careening across the sand, sets in motion Maries final break from Max and heralds the beginning of her second chance. Consequences reverberate through the years and the dunes when Marie becomes indelibly linked to Richards own second act.
With a cast of characters rounded out by a one-legged-treasure-hunter, a renegade teacher, and an unforgettable elephant trainer, All the Land to Hold Us is a vivid portrait of a fierce place and the inimitable characters that possess the capacity to adapt to and also despoil it. The novel boasts all the hallmarks of Basss most enduring workhuman longing and greed, nature endangered, and the possibility for redemption are all writ large on his desert canvas.
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When I reached the infamous page 84, an image came to mind. I was in an art gallery, or an art museum, and viewing the work of a famous, much lauded artist. "OBJECTIVELY," I recognized the paintings for their worth. I believed that the critics' and other viewers' praise was "on the money!" Now, "SUBJECTIVELY," the work left me cold. It didn't touch me personally. I thought of an artist, perhaps someone like Jackson Pollack, and know many art lovers who think his paintings are the work of genius...and they might be. While recognizing the greatness of Mr. Pollack's work, I am untouched by his paintings. So it is with "All The Land To Hold Us." I can appreciate the excellence of the author's prose and the novelty of the story he tells...but I am not moved by any of this. I have now finished reading the novel and understand, objectively, why so many people rated it 4-5 stars. However, I am left feeling that the novel has added little to my life, except for the knowledge I acquired reading about the "Land." I did complete the novel as it improved in Books 2 & 3.
"All The Land To Hold Us" is an apt title whose protagonist is the land - and it is a strange and powerful land. The harsh desert environment of West Texas is extremely arid, bitter and bleak. This environment shapes much of the novel's character and the characters' characters. The area receives much less rainfall than the rest of Texas and the temperature has been known to hit 120ºF in the summer. "An easterner, after making the stage trip and experiencing the danger of Horsehead and the Trans-Pecos country, wrote to friends back home that he now knew where hell was." The setting also includes Castle Gap and Juan Cordoba Lake, an inland salt lake.
This is also a tale of those who live on the desert's edge, where riches -- oil, water, precious artifacts & love -- can all be found and lost again in an instant. It is a sweeping saga of old Texas oil fields, salt mines, small town morality, and love.
The characters in "All the World to Hold Us" span three generations. Richard is a young and talented geologist who works for a Midland oil company. He is driven by his need to hunt for oil and fossils beneath the earth's surface and by his love for his girlfriend Clarissa. Clarissa, a beautiful girl from Odessa, dreams of fleeing the broiling sun of the Permian Basin and moving to Hollywood, where she hopes her great beauty will make her a model or a movie star. She slathers on sun screen many times each day to protect her skin so that the harsh sunlight will not mar her beauty. She hunts for fossils, with Richard, in the burning desert. Richard keeps what he collects, but Clarissa sells her million-year-old fossils to museums. As there is no dialogue here & little character development, I really have no idea who Richard and Clarissa are.
Herbert Mix is an elderly one-legged museum owner. He is greedy for gold and anything one might find while looking for it: bones, animal fossils, arrowheads, knife blades, clay pots, wagon wheels, coins, and human skulls, which he values most of all and refuses to sell.
A Depression-era couple Max and Marie Omo, and their two sons, live in another time on this bone-strewn land. Max and his sons make their living by trapping, harvesting, and selling Juan Cordona Lake's salt. The entire family, Marie, Max's lonely wife, and their sons, are transformed by their surroundings. The lake water they drink is brackish. The food, not much better. And for Marie, the loneliness of the place is devastating. Marie, like Clarissa, wants out of the harsh life in their desert salt pan home.
Oddly, in passing, a runaway circus elephant, makes his appearance, as does his Indian trainer. Bizarre - but this incident brings some humor and a bit of sadness to the novel.
Rick Bass paints a vivid portrait of a fierce place and the inimitable characters who populate it....who survive it. They possess the capacity to adapt to and also despoil it the land.
The author's prose is lyrical & lush, at times poetic. Mr. Bass brings much of his geologist background to the novel. He is the son of a geologist, and he studied petroleum geology at Utah State University.
Bass won the 1995 James Jones Literary Society First Novel Fellowship for his novel "Where the Sea Used to Be." He was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2006 for his short story collection "The Lives of Rocks". He was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award (autobiography) for "Why I Came West," (2009). He was also awarded the General Electric Younger Writers Award, a PEN/Nelson Algren Award Special Citation for fiction.
I am rating this book 4 stars. I think, in the end, I liked it a little bit more than in the beginning, so came down on the side of a weak 4-star review. While it is not a favorite of mine, I do really recognize that many people might feel otherwise. And, as I just wrote, the authors writing is outstanding - subjectively and objectively....just a bit dense and slow paced at times.