Volume 15
An Online Literary Magazine
April 30, 2021

 

Barry Lopez Remembered

Nonfiction

Nick O’Connell

 


Nicholas O'Connell, publisher of The Writer's Workshop Review.

 

 

T
he last time I saw Barry Lopez was at the Seattle Public Library in fall 2019. He was reading from his new nonfiction book, Horizon. After the reading, he left time for questions. I raised my hand.

 

“How does Horizon represent a progression in your work?” I asked.

 

He looked a little baffled. “I’m not sure what you mean,” he said.

 

“Is it something new for you?” I asked, hoping to get some insight into the book. 

 

“Give me a call, Nick,” he said. “We can talk about that in more detail.”

 

I nodded and he went on the next question. I planned to call as I’ve long been a fan of his work, from the spare, poetic Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven (1976) to ambitious, multilayered volumes like Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape (1986), winner of the National Book Award. I wanted to know if Horizon built on those earlier works and contributed something new. After reading the book, I saw that it had and looked forward to an extended conversation with him.

 

Distracted by other obligations, I assumed that all was well with him as he promoted Horizon and collected awards, honors, and acclaim. I’d call him a few months after the book tour. Thus, it hit me hard to hear that he died on Christmas Day, December 25, following a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 75.

 

I met Barry in 1985, interviewing him for my first book (At the Field’s End: Interview of 22 Pacific Northwest Writers, 1987), wrote a comprehensive appreciation of his work in my third book (On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature, 2003), and several magazine profiles of him over the years. He became famous for vivid evocations of remote landscapes in the Arctic and around the world.

 

He was perhaps the finest nature writer of his generation, though he would have chafed at the term. As much as he wrote about nature, he did so in a way that contained many other fields, including science, anthropology, natural history, and philosophy. He served as a kind of conscience for the natural world, his primary subject, and used his work a jumping-off point for speculation about human culture and its effect on the planet.

 

Thus, I’d like to dedicate this 15th issue of The Writer’s Workshop Review to Barry Lopez and include the interview I did with him from At the Field’s End: Interviews with 22 Northwest Writers. The interview proved instrumental in my development as a writer, teaching me about the possibilities of fiction and nonfiction, and the vocation of the literary life. I hope it provides “illumination, clarity” as he might have put it.

 

With his death, I lost one of my literary heroes. Fortunately, I gained one in Lawrence Wright, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower (2006) and the recent “The Plague Year” The New Yorker. I had the privilege of interviewing him for The Seattle Times and include an extended version of that interview in this issue along with a YouTube video of the interview. ( http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaPg-UF9pP0&t=2s

 

The other stories in the 15th issue of The Writer’s Workshop Review exhibit similar storytelling flair: Alan Gartenhaus’s tropical tale, “Breadfruit, Anyone?”, Mary B. Kurtz’s atmospheric Hawaiian idyll, “A Flight from Winter,” Shannon Fitzgerald’s magical fantasy novel, The Island of Mers, and Thomas Johnson’s nostalgic “Spitballs, Veras, and the Amazing Willie Mays: A Recollection of Youth.”

 

I’d like to thank the following people for their help with this issue: all the writers who contributed, Managing Editor Kathleen Glassburn for keeping things on track, and Irene Wanner for careful reading and editing of manuscripts. We’re looking for an additional reader, so please let us know if you’re interested. It’s a great opportunity to learn about contemporary literature.

 

We hope you enjoy the 15th issue of The Writer's Workshop Review. Please let us know what you think, and if you have a story that might work for us, please send it. We read all year and welcome submissions at any time. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

All best,

Nicholas O’Connell

Publisher/ Editor

The Writer’s Workshop Review

nick@thewritersworkshop.net

 

 

 

Nicholas O’Connell, M.F.A, Ph.D., is the author of The Storms of Denali (University of Alaska Press, 2012), On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature (U.W. Press, 2003), At the Field’s End: Interviews with 22 Pacific Northwest Writers (U.W. Press, 1998), Contemporary Ecofiction (Charles Scribner’s, 1996) and Beyond Risk: Conversations with Climbers (Mountaineers, 1993). He contributes to Newsweek, Gourmet, Saveur, Outside, GO, National Geographic Adventure, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sierra, The Wine Spectator, Commonweal, Image, Rock + Ice and many other places. He is the publisher/editor of The Writer’s Workshop Review and the founder of the creative writing program ( http://www.thewritersworkshop.net).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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