The Lives of Rocks : Stories by Rick Bass

the lives of rocksRick Bass has had a long literary career.  A Texas native, but a long-time transplant to the Yaak Valley in Montana, his stories and nonfiction express dismay at the ways in which we toy with and usurp the natural world  He also observes how nature, being neither our friend or foe, teaches us how to best co-exist with itself, if we care to listen.

Although there is an environmentalist bent in several of these, Bass is also quite adept at plumbing the human heart and how we interact.  His stories encompass female elk hunters and high school buddies, isolated fathers and young lovers.

In “Pagans”, teenager friends find a refuge amidst the detritus of industry, in this case a deserted crane next to a toxic river.  Reading “The Windy Day”, we will find out the extremes of weather a couple will go through to find out one piece of news.  In “Goats”, yet another set of buddies learn the painful truth of senility and their limitations with livestock.  And in the title story – really a novella – an aging cancer patient, with pride in her now-dwindling self-sufficiency, discovers a short-lived joy of dependency with the kids who live farther down the valley.

Bass writes with a great deal of care.  As such, his stories are entities in which you really need to immerse yourself.  “Casual” is not the word to describe his worlds.  But if you like well-wrought prose, The Lives of Rocks is worth your while.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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