Skillfully blending history, memory, and observation, philosopher-cum-mountain guide Jack Turner's Teewinot
is a year in the life of Wyoming's Teton Range, as told by a true believer. Certainly he captures a sense of the mountains--not only their jagged rock, hidden valleys, and beaten trails, but the flora, fauna, and folks who inhabit them. He navigates this territory with the poise and purpose of a skilled climber--feeling for holds, finding one, adjusting balance, reaching out again in a different direction, pausing on those features whose nuances fit best, but never lingering too long. His narrative meanders between peaks, seasons, communities, periods of history, and moments in time. While lacking much of the intensity in tone and the invitation to controversy of his previous work, The Abstract Wild
is still underscored by a deep environmental consciousness and concern for the future of the wild. Turner notes, for instance, the numerous and varied ways Homo sapiens
have scarred his beloved wilderness: the trash left behind by campers, the wildlife pushed out of their usual haunts, the rash of development in Jackson Hole. But he also manages to skirt the role played by guide companies like Exum (his employer), noting only that "Exum, of course, is a part of the problem--a small part." Maybe this is denial, a practice he labels "the first line of defense." Or perhaps he relies on the climber's "prizewinning talent for dissociating emotion" to shield him. Whatever, he is content to leave these questions unanswered. Many readers will also be content to leave them as such--a worthwhile trade for a glimpse into a climber's soul. --Rene Henery
From Publishers Weekly
Bursting with a sense of place, Turner's earnest journal of a year spent in Grand Teton National Park, where he works as a mountain guide, is a rewarding reading experience replete with ravishing observations of nature. From his Wyoming cabin, he looks out on majestic Mount Teewinot (the name comes from a Shoshone word meaning "many pinnacles"). He counts among his "Thoreauvian neighbors" deer, ospreys, great blue herons and porcupines, as well as moose that occasionally sleep on his porch. "We are a guild, our labor a craft," he declares, referring to fellow guides and park rangers who come together three or four months each year, united by a love of mountains and the West. Turner, a seasoned mountaineer who has led expeditions to India, Tibet and China, and has taught philosophy, takes us on exhilarating climbs, including one to the summit of the Grand Teton, as he casually drops apt references to Sartre, Rilke, Wittgenstein, Matthew Arnold, Chinese painting, Buddhist chants, Zen poems. But this is no Shangri-La. Illegal snowmobilers and poachers abound; "extreme skiers" and "extreme snowboarders" keep rescuers and medics busy. Turner himself lives on the edgeAjust half a mile from an active geologic fault capable of triggering a 7.5-magnitude earthquake tomorrow. A passionate conservationist, he bemoans the frazzled state of this "most compromised park in the national park system," a sanctuary littered with hunters, a major airport, motorboats with no speed limits. Highlighting the fate of the vanishing grizzly bear, he makes a compelling plea for preservation of "wild forms of being," and envisions a respectful covenant between people and wild animals such as mountain lions and wolves. Photos not seen by PW.
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