cover image Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had

Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had

Rick Bass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-395-92618-5

""How we fall into grace. You can't work or earn your way into it. You just fall. It lies below, it lies beyond. It comes to you, unbidden,"" writes novelist and essayist Bass (Where the Sea Used to Be, etc.) of the arrival of his ""goofy little knot-headed"" genius of a pointing dog. As they roam the remote western Montana valley where Bass lives, and hunt the golden autumn plains in the eastern part of the state, Colter unfailingly ushers Bass into ""an unexplored land"" where the two become ""as alive as we have ever been: our senses so sharp and whittled alive that we could barely stand it."" Their prolonged hours of ""wanting only one thing, a bird, wanting it so effortlessly and purely that [we] come the closest [we] will ever come to a shared language"" are a blessing. But always, for Bass, there is the undertow of paradox: of living for the hunt but being a comically rotten marksman; of being a hunter yet an environmentalist; of his tendency to love with ""a passion so intense it borders on gluttony,"" inevitably followed by the crushing numbness that marks the loss of what he loves. Bass's exhaustless appetite for natural beauty and his propensity for ""bragging on"" his dog occasionally lead to exuberant repetition (""It was just so damn great to be out in such open country with my dogs""), but more often result in luminously transcendent passages on the education and sorrowful loss of a brilliant and mischievous chocolate brown pointer that will transfix anyone who has ever loved a dog. (June)