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On fog-shrouded barrier island or deep in winter woods, Robert Finch is a vivid witness to our participation, whether as individuals or as communities, in the mysteries of natural experience.
There are moments in Outlands where this investment of self in the land is dramatic and even risk-laden, as when the author isolates himself-almost without knowing why-from the mainland, on a spit of sand across a storm-bred, rushing cut of ocean water. Or when he finds himself, on a winter walk in search of seals along a stretch of the Outer Beach, “standing between a pack of agitated marine carnivores and an icy harbor, miles from the nearest human.”
But, as Finch explains, deep acquaintance provides even the most common encounters with singular rewards: “One of the primary reasons this place yields so much to me so consistently is that I have invested so much of myself into it, physically, mentally, and emotionally . . . a thousand simple, repeated, physical acts have given this landscape a texture for me so that even its most casual aspect is filled, not with slick charm or abstract nostalgia, but with living, tactile memory.”
In Outlands, Finch demonstrates once again his profound willingness to ask essential questions. These essays recognize our need for both the human and the nonhuman in our lives; they probe the ambiguities in our response to the terror and beauty of the natural world and the love and aggression we struggle with in our associations with one another. Robert Finch’s remarkable prose offers high entertainment, but also gives us new sympathies for and understanding of both nature and ourselves.
Praise for Outlands
Besides being an important book, it’s also a graceful pleasure to read.
Robert Finch was born in 1943, in New Jersey, on the banks of the Passaic, “one of he ten dirtiest rivers in America.” He claims that any natural environment since then has been an improvement. He began visiting Cape Cod in 1962 and moved there full-time a decade later. He is the editor of the Norton Book of Nature Writing and the author of seven books.