Thursday, April 7, 2011

We've Picked a New V.I.B.*: Fire Season by Philip Connors

A decade ago Philip Connors left work as an editor at the Wall Street Journal and talked his way into a job far from the streets of lower Manhattan: working as one of the last fire lookouts in America. Spending nearly half the year in a 7' x 7' tower, 10,000 feet above sea level in remote New Mexico, his tasks were simple: keep watch over one of the most fire-prone forests in the country and sound the alarm at the first sign of smoke.

Fire Season is Connors's remarkable reflection on work, our place in the wild, and the charms of solitude. The landscape over which he keeps watch is rugged and roadless—it was the first region in the world to be officially placed off limits to industrial machines—and it typically gets hit by lightning more than 30,000 times per year. Connors recounts his days and nights in this forbidding land, untethered from the comforts of modern life: the eerie pleasure of being alone in his glass-walled perch with only his dog Alice for company; occasional visits from smokejumpers and long-distance hikers; the strange dance of communion and wariness with bears, elk, and other wild creatures; trips to visit the hidden graves of buffalo soldiers slain during the Apache wars of the nineteenth century; and always the majesty and might of lightning storms and untamed fire.

Written with narrative verve and startling beauty, and filled with reflections on his literary forebears who also served as lookouts—among them Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, Norman Maclean, and Gary Snyder
Fire Season is a book to stand the test of time.

Joe says:
"For nearly ten years, Philip Connors spent at most of his summers working as a fire lookout in the Gila Wilderness in southern New Mexico. Fire Season is about one of those summers working and living alone in the wilderness watching for fire. Fire is indispensable to a healthy forest ecosystem, and Connors helps to dispel some of the myths many of us grew up hearing. Through evocative and passionate prose, Connors explains the history of fighting fires in the West, the creation of wilderness areas and of the writers who were there before him. This is a book filled with reverence and awe of the natural world on its own terms.  "Fire Season" is a book filled with wisdom; we humans know we exist as part of nature, but we forget that it is ultimately by her rules we must live.  

I really loved Fire Season. It's funny, but I've had Poets on the Peaks for years, about Kerouac, Gary Snyder and Phillip Whalen and their time as fire lookouts in the Cascades in the 50's. Connors reviews the book in his. I'm now reading that one, as well!"

Jackie says:
"This is a beautiful book about a rare man with an even rarer summer job--he's one of the last fire watchers in existence.  Five months of the year he leaves civilization behind, drives 40 miles then hikes 5 more (sometimes having to literally crawl through snow on his first trip up in late April) to a lookout tower and a small cabin and millions of acres of trees, desert, and mountains.  On a clear day he can see for 200 miles from his posting.  Alice, his dog, is generally his only company other than smoke jumpers, the very occasional hardcore hiker, and his astronomically tolerant wife who visits a few times when work and school permit her to.  This book is about the beauty of nature and the history of wilderness in America--its changing values, maintenance, political standing, and its amazing beauty.  This book is a rant, a love letter, a fairy tale, a plea and a journal that is both funny, deep, thoughtful, angry but always, always baldly truthful.  A fantastic and memorable read."

*A book we’re so excited about, we’ve made it a V.I.B.! That means it’s a true stand-out in a season of many great new books. 

Stay tuned for your chance to meet the author at a Tattered Cover near you in early May just before he heads up the tower for the season.

No comments: