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The Wild Marsh

Rick Bass again assumes the role of America’s 21st-century Thoreau.

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Many nature writers, for whatever reason, feel compelled to stray far afield from terrain they know intimately with their eyes and heart. But not Montana’s Rick Bass.

It’s now the middle of summer and, like glacier lilies peppering the Western mountains, the Yaak Valley’s man of words and woods is back with another book waiting to take readers away to one of the least populated corners of the American landscape.

By making his adopted dell a muse for different kinds of works – from fictional short stories to activist essays – Bass has left the Yaak indelibly stenciled into the map of literary place names. His prolific prose and its singular yet multidimensional connection to one million acres of geography have caused critics to herald him as a modern version of Henry David Thoreau. But here we must ask a question:  What more do we need – and want – to know about the Yaak that Bass hasn’t been revealed to us before?

To quote Thoreau (who found plenty of fodder for universal rumination at local Walden Pond and in Maine’s nearby North Woods): “It is not worth the while to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.” Translation:  One doesn’t need a dog-eared passport; a huge travel budget, a large amount of ennui, and an abundance of elusive vacation days to discover the sacred, the exotic, and the profound.

If this sounds trite, perhaps even preachy, Bass shows us why it isn’t.


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