Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sid Marty's "The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek" is as good as nature writing gets

Sid Marty is a fourth-generation Albertan, a singer-songwriter, a former park warden, a widely-published poet, and an eminent journalist and conservationist. His 1978 Men for the Mountains remains a necessary title in any respectable collection of Canadian nature writing. It belongs on the same shelf with Susanna Moodie's Roughing It in the Bush and Roderick Haig-Brown's Measure of the Year.

Marty's latest, The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek, is a work of poetic genius. Written in the form of a non-fiction novel, the book combines the best of hard and serious investigative reporting with the narrative power of the finest literary journalism. It moves along at the clip of a detective story.

It's also a daring work of the imagination – much of the action in The Black Grizzly unfolds from the perspective of a bear. This is an ambitious, almost reckless idea, but Marty actually carries it off. It's not just because he' such a skilled and methodical craftsman. It's also because Marty understands bears. He knows bears better than most people know their cats.

This is a book about bears and people, their respective customs and habits, and their ancient and elaborate relationships. It's also about the complexities involved in managing contemporary human-bear interactions.

But it's also a forensic reconstruction of a series of singular, horrific events that occurred in a particular place, at a particular time, and it's about a very specific and especially dangerous bear, in a place that came to be known as "the most dangerous place in Banff National Park," during a year that was singularly cruel for both bears and the people they came in contact with throughout the western half of North America. . .

That's from a review of mine in the latest Canadian Geographic magazine, but the review isn't on-line, so go out and buy the magazine, or read some of what it offers on-line here, or better yet, go out and buy Marty's book.


Blogger richard said...

I'm looking forward to reading Sid Marty's new one; I first read him in Leaning on the Wind, and I've since enjoyed his occasional pieces and poetry as well. (Good title, No One Danced with Miss Rodeo.)

8:41 PM  

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