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Book Review, "The High Sierra: A Love Story"

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Book Review, "The High Sierra: A Love Story"
July 22, 2022 06:01PM
Book Review in the Atlantic, "The High Sierra: A Love Story":

Exactly what kind of book is The High Sierra? I would call it fractally encyclopedic, borrowing from a phrase—“thinking fractally”—that Robinson uses to describe John Muir’s work in his articles and books such as My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) and The Yosemite (1912). What Robinson means is that Muir was always shifting scale—comparing large to small, using yosemite, for instance, to mean both a massive landform and an intimate one, even calling California’s Central Valley “a double yosemite.”

In The High Sierra, Robinson is constantly shifting scale too—shifting scale, subject, angle of attention, even genre. One moment the book is memoir. The next it’s trail guide. Then it’s bibliography, history, ecological meditation, and a discourse on renaming peaks and passes that have culturally unacceptable names. Robinson lets his thoughts scatter and then tracks them down wherever they’ve settled, much like a Sierra sheepherder and his flock in the late 19th century. The High Sierra might be subtitled: A Miscellany—even though it’s a word we don’t use much any more. Robinson registers that the human mind is miscellaneous and invites us to accept that fact.

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