In this poetic cri de coeur, Bass (The Book of the Yaak
) turns his focus to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He visited there to join the Gwich-'in tribe in its annual hunt for the life-sustaining caribou—as the Bush administration pressured Congress to open the herd's traditional calving grounds to oil drilling. This bittersweet account of his stay conveys a profound appreciation for the immense, unblemished majesty of one of the few almost untouched landscapes on Earth; an eye-opening understanding of the intimate spiritual and physical connection, stretching back as much as 10,000 years, between the scattered Gwich-'in tribes and the migrant caribou; and an unexpected respect for how tribal elders and a young generation of activists in Arctic Village (pop. 150) have developed a media-savvy offense against "predatory" Alaskan politicians desperate to drill for a few months' worth of petroleum. Bass is no starry-eyed optimist arguing abstractly for the environment; he concludes his emotional defense of the Gwich-'in uncertain that the preservation of a precious, ancient way of life is possible. But this eloquent narrative holds out hope. (Sept.)
The Senate is likely to bring Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling to a vote once more before the presidential election. There is good potential for the publisher to link the book to this vote.