Rick Bass is a writer preoccupied with the connections between the human animal and wilderness. His characters work with and against the wilderness in which he places them and are defined by this struggle. The physical environment in a Bass story is as alive and intricate as any of the human characters. He is a minimalist whose narrators are usually first-person, rarely named, and seem often to have inherited their fated behaviors from other family members. Many of these first-person narratives have as one of their major themes the maturation of the narrator. The narrator of “In the Loyal Mountains” is greatly influenced by an uncle, a bizarre and strong-willed man, whose devotion to hunting and fishing make him sound like Bass’s descriptions of his own grandfather, and by a girl from “the wrong side of the tracks,” one of society’s more “civilized” wildernesses. Bass’s female characters, both major and minor, seem always to function as satellites of male characters, even in “The Myths of Bears,” where he gives the woman a role as large as that of her male counterpart. At times this makes the women of Bass’s stories seem secondary, sometimes even superfluous. Consequently, the men often seem immature or incomplete.
In his review of The Watch, Bass’s first collection of short stories, Joseph Coates writes about other critics’ use of the term “Magical Realism” in regard to Bass’s stories,that quality, if it exists...
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