The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness

It was very possible that Wallis couldn't love anyone: could only work, and work. He knew there were people like that. - "Where The Sea Used to Be," 67

Rick Bass has included three novellas in his collection entitled The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness, the sum of which speaks to the spiritual connections that various characters have first to the earth and then to each other. "The Myths of Bears" tells the story of one man's desperate pursuit of his wife through a thawing winter forest, while "The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness" (as told by the back cover), is about a woman recently returned to her west Texas ranch to live on land that's been in her family since Texas was a republic. In "Where the Sea Used to Be," a young oil hound is tracked through Mississippi in search of his secrets to finding the unending oil wells, the place where "the sea used to be" and the oil pocket lies. 

Rick Bass is a dedicated, talented writer who works hard at bettering his craft; as a previous mentor of mine, I can attest to his commitment to teaching, as well. Though his aesthetic view is narrow and specific--you'll never see him reading vampire fiction, for instance--his likes and dislikes fit with his personality. He is not a writer who will take time feeding his brain (and heart?) with stories his instincts tell him "aren't up his alley." 

Of the three novellas in The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness, my favorite by far was "Where The Sea Used to Be." I liked it for its opposing characters and the complexity of those characters. Wallis (noted above in the pulled-out quotation), a rather poor young man who has discovered a secret to discovering oil wells beneath the earth, questions his life goals while living in hotels, camping, and seeking oil. It's rather humorous that he names his dog "Dudley," because Dudley The Man is the aging, older oil baron who also happens to be chasing young Wallis across Mississippi. It's a set of triangles going on. Tension breeds itself--it is brewing in the oil, if you will--and with the entrance of young Sara, beautiful and amorous, Wallis finds a parry-partner to his livelihood. Will he be able to fall in love? Hasn't he been wanting that lately? A partner? 

I can't describe these stories perfectly. I wouldn't want to. I won't try. Rick Bass is a wonderful writer who has taught me a lot over the past couple of years. I've learned by reading his books and by hearing instruction come directly from him. And I'm grateful to him. He's a man of many passions, and this set of novellas proves it. I'd recommend you take a look into one of his books, perhaps his newest, For A Little While, which just one the Story Prize.

All the best to you, readers! 

keep reading. 

next week's book: Plainsong, by Kent Haruf