Over the past six years, Rick Bass has written five nonfiction books about the outdoors, including THE NINEMILE WOLVES (1992), WINTER: NOTES FROM MONTANA (1991), and OIL NOTES (1989), all of which reveal a revered understanding of the natural world. In his stories, though—what ultimately makes the fiction more engaging—Bass allows his imagination to roam wildly over these landscapes in search for what lies unseen, beneath the surface of things, waiting to be told.
“No one has ever before seen what I am seeing,” Bass boldly declares in OIL NOTES. And this much is true: Bass’s vision of the world is twisted and enlarged to resemble something otherworldly, not unlike the work of such magical realists as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Juan Rulfo, and Ben Okri. Bass’s stories deliberately stretch the fabric of reality in order for us to see what he sees, and for us to realize the limitless possibilities of a world surrounded by sky. Bass magically transforms the rugged, a river-runs-through-them natural landscapes of northern Montana, New York, and Michigan into mythical places where “ravens sometimes fell from the sky in mid-flight, their insides snapping” due to the hard winter cold.
To read the work of Rick Bass, to read PLATTE RIVER, is to never step twice into “some sort of afterlife, separate from the real world.” In “Mahatma Joe,” Bass tells the story of a preacher living out his last days in the remote Grass Valley of Montana, a place where people once celebrated the end of winter with what they called the “Naked Days, where no one wore clothes at any time, not even when they went into the saloon.” Old Preacher Joe is buoyed by the possibility of cultivating a garden of salvation here in “a valley more wicked than any of the mining camps in Alaska.” Though Mahatma Joe finds more than he had bargained for, this novella, like the other two that form the PLATTE RIVER triptych, is ultimately about love and the renewal of the human heart.
Rick Bass’s PLATTE RIVER will leave you hungry—hungering for more stories from a writer who has become, in the words of Barry Hannah, “a new young captain of the American short story.”
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XC, February 1, 1994, p. 993.
Chicago Tribune. March 20, 1994, XIV, p. 3.
The Christian Science Monitor. March 8, 1994, p. 13.
English Journal. LXXXIII, November, 1994, p. 105.
Kirkus Reviews. LXI, December 15, 1993, p. 1537.
Library Journal. CXIX, January, 1994, p. 168.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 13, 1994, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, January 3, 1994, p. 70.
In the span of six years, Rick Bass has published five nonfiction books about the outdoors, including The Ninemile Wolves (1992), Winter: Notes from Montana (1991), and Oil Notes (1989), all of which offer inside glimpses into one man’s reverent, intimate relationship with the natural world. In Oil Notes, Bass boldly declares, “No one has ever before seen what I am seeing.” This much is true: Bass’s vision of the world is twisted and enlarged to resemble something otherworldly, much like the work of such noted magical realists as Gabriel García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, and Ben Okri. In his stories, Bass stretches the fabric of everyday reality in order for readers to see what he sees, to realize the limitless possibilities of a world surrounded by sky. In Platte River, his follow-up work of fiction to the much-acclaimed collection of stories The Watch (1989), Bass transforms the rugged, river-runs-through-them natural landscapes of northern-remote Montana, New York, and Michigan into magical, mythical, miraculous places where “ravens sometimes fell from the sky in midflight, their insides just snapping” from the “hard winter” cold. Bass uncages his hungry, wildly fertile imagination to forage over these locales in its search for what lies...
(The entire section contains 2332 words.)
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