cover image Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places

Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places

Gary Snyder and Julia Martin. Trinity Univ. (PGW, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59534-251-5

Thirty years ago Martin, then a South African graduate student, wrote award-winning poet, essayist, and environmental activist Snyder (No Nature). His gracious reply to her fearlessly detailed questions about his writing sparked a long-distance friendship: "It started as an intellectual exchange and became an exploration of practice," Martin, South African writer and literary scholar, explains. Transcripts of three conversations, the earliest in 1988, are followed by selected letters and emails written between 1983 and 2011. The opening dialogues take no prisoners: discussions of specific works are embedded in a dizzying array of ideas revealing Snyder's wide-ranging curiosity. Buddhist principles infuse his thoughts on ecological concerns, gender, women and nature, politics, wilderness, writing, long-term habitation, and much more. The sometimes poignant letters show the two writers trying to bring their knowledge to bear on inevitable changes and losses. Throughout, Snyder, who is now 84, generously gives wise advice about writing and life. While these conversations provide little orientation for the reader not familiar with Snyder's work, they reveal how a deeply humane thinker crosses boundaries to pose challenging questions, both practical and ultimate. His joy in ideas is contagious. (Nov.)