The Wild Marsh
Four Seasons at Home in Montana
By Rick Bass
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547055169, 384pp.)
Publication Date: July 2009
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The Wild Marsh is Rick Bass’s most mature, full account of life in the Yaak and a crowning achievement in his celebrated career. It begins with his family settling in for the long Montana winter, and captures all the subtle harbingers of change that mark each passing month — the initial cruel teasing of spring, the splendor and fecundity of summer, and the bittersweet memories evoked by fall.
It is full of rich observation about what it takes to live in the valley — ruggedness, improvisation and, of course, duct tape. The Wild Marsh is also tremendously poignant, especially when Bass reflects on what it means for his young daughters to grow up surrounded by the strangeness and wonder of nature. He shares with them the Yaak’s little secrets — where the huckleberries are best in a dry year, where to find a grizzly’s claw marks in an old cedar — and discovers that passing on this intimate local knowledge, the knowledge of home, is a kind of rare and valuable love.
Bass emerges not just as a writer but as a father, a neighbor, and a gifted observer, uniquely able to bring us close to the drama and sanctity of small things, ensuring that though the wilderness is increasingly at risk, the voice of the wilderness will not disappear.
RICK BASS’s fiction has received O. Henry Awards, numerous Pushcart Prizes, awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. Most recently, his memoir Why I Came West was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.
“Classic in form, the journal of a year in an old loved place, The Wild Marsh is a lovingly-wrought chronicle from a writerly soul that has found its spot in the world: the one-of-a-kind Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana. Sure-footed in his approach whether topic is a forest fire in his font yard or the excitement of the first tiny cheerful glacier lilies in spring, Rick Bass is a stirring companion on the trail that leads west from the Walden Pond of Henry David Thoreau and the Sand County of Aldo Leopold.” —Ivan Doig, author of The Whistling Season
"[T]he author anchors his celebration of nature’s elegant order with his rhapsodic relationship to the wild marsh outside his writing cabin, and the uncompromising wilderness it represents." —STARRED, Publishers Weekly
"Bass, grounding his book in science well, takes the facts and transforms them, as a musician transforms musical notes, into a work of great beauty. This walk through a year is a walk through the author’s soul, filled with passions, dreams, fears, and the exuberance of Walt Whitman." —Library Journal
"A welcome installment in Bass’s ongoing place-centered autobiography." —Kirkus
"A wonderfully poetic, evocative homage to a wilderness most of us will never see." —STARRED, Booklist