cover image The Abstract Wild

The Abstract Wild

Jack Turner. University of Arizona Press, $17.95 (136pp) ISBN 978-0-8165-1699-5

These eight provocative essays turn on a common theme: how wildness (once but no longer the essence of wilderness) has been mediated, micromanaged and abstracted nearly out of existence. The essays include rants against the status quo, memoirs of wild places and a tribute to Doug Peacock, who dared to live among grizzlies. Turner, a former academic who's now a mountain guide in the Grand Tetons, infuses his writing with a restless anger, best felt when read fast. At times, he exhibits a penchant for hyperbole (""Yosemite Valley is more like Coney Island than a wilderness""), and his tone can run a bit high-handed, as when he loftily compares his mountaineering to the predilections of pelicans. He is most persuasive when relying on the language of experience: coming upon a wall of prehistoric pictographs in a Utah canyon, tracking a mountain lion in Wyoming, listening to the clacking of soaring white pelicans. One essay, ""Economic Nature,"" starkly reveals both Turner the pedant, excoriating the language of economics that controls the way we see the world, and Turner the meditative poet (""Dig in someplace.... Allow the spirits of your chosen place to speak through you. Say their names.""). Both are persuasive. In the end, Turner has produced a manifesto that defends the wild by passionately restoring its good Thoreauvian name. (Oct.)