Verlyn Klinkenborg’s books include Several Short Sentences About Writing and Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. (September 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

The Voice of the Landscape

Barry Lopez; drawing by Karl Stevens

Horizon

by Barry Lopez
In his first nonfiction book, Of Wolves and Men (1978), Barry Lopez described the appalling American slaughter of wolves—a long and ongoing vendetta driven by economic and political motives and by a quality of hatred that humans usually reserve for one another. “It seems to me,” he says, “that somewhere …

Green and Pleasant Land

Edward Hicks: The Cornell Farm, 1848

The American Farmer in the Eighteenth Century: A Social and Cultural History

by Richard Lyman Bushman

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm

by Ted Genoways
Industrial agriculture—shaped by the USDA, by chemical and seed companies, by the vagaries of domestic and export markets—relies on a picture of the family farmer to soften its image. It wants it both ways. It wants to celebrate its technical innovations, like genetically modified crops, computer-driven tractors, and satellite-monitored fields. And yet it also wants to foster our national nostalgia for farming and the men and women who do it. The contradiction is intolerable, especially to farmers.

A Horse Is a Horse, of Course

‘Dark Horse,’ Wyoming, 2005; photograph by Jack Spencer from his book This Land: An American Portrait, published by University of Texas Press

Farewell to the Horse: A Cultural History

by Ulrich Raulff, translated from the German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
In 1937, a car carrying Rebecca West got stuck in a snowdrift on a Croatian hilltop. “Peasants ran out of a cottage near by,” she wrote, “shouting with laughter because machinery had made a fool of itself, and dug out the automobile with incredible rapidity. They were doubtless anxious to …

‘At the Peak of the Terror’

Iraqi policemen and American soldiers waiting while their commanders plan a joint patrol of southern Baghdad, 2010; photograph by Peter van Agtmael from his book Disco Night Sept. 11, published by Red Hook Editions

Redeployment

by Phil Klay
Redeployment is a collection of twelve brutally effective first-person stories about the uselessness of stories. They are fictions from the Iraq war, but they draw on many conversations between soldiers and the author, Phil Klay, an ex-marine. Who tells them? Among the narrators are a military chaplain, a soldier in …

How to Destroy Species, Including Us

Eden, Wyoming, 2005

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
The better we understand the earth’s natural systems, the more dynamic they appear to be. (The same could be said of the universe itself.) Two and a half centuries ago earth looked like a planet of remarkable fixity and a short time scale. Since then, of course, the past has …

The Prophet

Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

by Bill McKibben
Four years ago, I gave a morning talk at Wes Jackson’s Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. It was the institute’s thirty-first Prairie Festival, a sparkling autumn weekend in the central Kansas hills. For years, the Land Institute has been one of the centers of positive thinking about agriculture. It is …

NYR DAILY

John Ruskin, a Wreath of Emotion

Lausanne (detail), attributed to John Ruskin, undated

I can no longer sum up John Ruskin as neatly as I did when I was working at the Morgan Library. I was a young, privateering scholar then, conducting swift, efficient raids on the legacy of one writer after another as the manuscript exhibition came together. Ruskin was a prescient critic of the industrializing world around him and an early witness of climate change, as Tim Barringer notes in Unto This Last: Two Hundred Years of Ruskin, the catalog accompanying the exhibition of the same name currently showing at the Yale Center for British Art. Ruskin’s lectures called “The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century”—delivered in 1884 and based on a lifetime of cloud-watching—portray the “plague-wind” that originated, he believed, in the smokestacks of industrial England. “By the plague-wind every breath of air you draw is polluted, half round the world.”