Following The Practice of the Wild and A Place in Space, this collection of essays, now in paperback, by Gary Snyder blazes with insight. In his most autobiographical writing to date, these essays employ fire as a metaphor for the crucial moment when deeply held viewpoints yield to new experiences, and our spirits and minds broaden and mature. Snyder here writes and riffs on a wide range of topics, from our sense of place and a need to review forestry practices, to the writing life and Eastern thought. Surveying the current wisdom that fires are in some cases necessary for ecosystems of the wild, he contemplates the evolution of his view on the practice, while exploring its larger repercussions on our perceptions of nature and the great landscapes of the West.
These pieces include recollections of his boyhood, his involvement with the literary community of the Bay Area, his travels to Japan, as well as his thoughts on American culture today. All maintain Snyder’s reputation as an intellect to be reckoned with, while often revealing him at his most emotionally vulnerable. The final impression is holistic: We perceive not a collection of essays, but a cohesive presentation of Snyder’s life and work expressed in his characteristically straightforward prose.