BOOKS: THE WILDERNESS WITHIN

NOVELLAS IN WHICH NATURE IS MORE THAN SCENERY

Rick Bass drew good reviews in 1992 with The Ninemile Wolves, a moody nonfiction report of a Canadian wolf pack that crossed the U.S. border a few years ago and colonized one of the western states. But Bass's fiction (The Book of Yaak, In the Loyal Mountains) seems to get categorized as good-with-an-asterisk. He's regional. (So was Wallace Stegner, of course, until he became a national monument.) Bass may reach monument or even wilderness-area status in time, but for the moment he gathers honorable obscurity, and blackflies, on the shelf reserved for nature writers.

The view here is, forget that asterisk....

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