Editor’s note: At a time when people are bashing environmentalism, including many of the political extemists in our area, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet and county resident Gary Snyder is arguing for “The Etiquette of Freedom.”
As Snyder puts it, “Learning the birds and the flowers is not just high school science or nature study — it’s local etiquette. It’s rude not to know your neighbors, you know?”:
Here’s a review of the book from S.F. Weekly:
By Jonathan Kiefer
If all you had to go by was its title, The Etiquette of Freedom might imply some crummy blowhard’s latest George W. Bush–nostalgic gas blast of foreign-policy punditry. What a relief that the actual book is something more like the opposite.
Even if you’ve never heard of Gary Snyder, the Pulitzer Prize–winning San Francisco native poet, and his old pal Jim Harrison, the author of Legends of the Fall, you’ll quickly get the sense from this patchwork quilt of conversations between them — with section headings such as Trans-Species Erotics and Zen and Poetry — that this is no ode to jingoism.
The Etiquette of Freedom essentially amounts to a hardbound printed supplemental feature to the recent documentary The Practice of the Wild (included on DVD in the book’s back cover), wherein Snyder and Harrison, plus a few friends and colleagues, hang out and chat about life, literature, and their mutual appreciation of “Deep Ecology,” a philosophy holding that responsible citizenship of the world includes mindfulness with regard to humans and nonhumans alike.
(The Practice of the Wild also is the title of a Snyder essay collection, also recently rereleased in a new expanded edition from this book’s publisher, Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press.) As Snyder puts it, “Learning the birds and the flowers is not just high school science or nature study — it’s local etiquette. It’s rude not to know your neighbors, you know?”
Although a fundamentally complaisant exercise, The Etiquette of Freedom does at least challenge the prevailing habit of assuming films to be at the top of our cultural food chain. In the case of this material, it suggests, there’s still further to go when the documentary is done — namely, into the good, old-fashioned immersive tranquillity of a book.
Today, ever the impressively well-adjusted Beat retiree living in a hand-built home in the Sierra foothills, Snyder still knows what’s going on.
More of the review is here.