A Song for the River
Notable Book, Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award
Amazon Book Review Best Nonfiction of 2018
2018 Publisher's Weekly Best Books of the Year, Nonfiction
2018 Southwest Books of the Year
Outside Magazine Pick for Best Adventure Books of the Season
NPR Summer Reading List Pick
From one of the last fire lookouts in America comes this sequel to the award-winning Fire Season--a story of calamity and resilience in the world's first Wilderness.
A dozen years into his dream job keeping watch over the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, Philip Connors bore witness to the wildfire he had always feared: a conflagration that forced him off his mountain by helicopter, and changed forever the forest and watershed he loved. It was merely one of many transformations that arrived in quick succession, not just fire and flood but illness, divorce, the death of a fellow lookout in a freak accident, and a tragic plane crash that rocked the community he called home.
At its core an elegy for a friend he cherished like a brother, A Song for the River opens into celebration of a landscape redolent with meaning--and the river that runs through it. Connors channels the voices of the voiceless in a praise song of great urgency, and makes a plea to save a vital piece of our natural and cultural heritage: the wild Gila River, whose waters are threatened by a potential dam.
Brimming with vivid characters and beautiful evocations of the landscape, A Song for the River carries the story of the Gila Wilderness forward to the present precarious moment, and manages to find green shoots everywhere sprouting from the ash. Its argument on behalf of things wild and free could not be more timely, and its goal is nothing less than permanent protection for that rarest of things in the American West, a free-flowing river--the sinuous and gorgeous Gila.
It must not perish.
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About the AuthorPhilip Connors was born in Iowa, grew up on a farm in Minnesota, and studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Beginning in 1999 he worked at the Wall Street Journal, mostly as an editor on the Leisure & Arts page. In 2002 he left New York to become a fire lookout in New Mexico's Gila National Forest, where he has spent every summer since. That experience became the subject of his first book, Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout, which Amazon named the best nature book of the year in 2011. It won the National Outdoor Book Award, the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, the Reading the West Award for nonfiction, and the Grand Prize from the Banff Mountain Book Competition. His essays have appeared in Harper's, the London Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, the Paris Review, the Nation, High Country News, Lapham's Quarterly, and n+1. His second book, All the Wrong Places, a memoir of life in the shadow of his brother's suicide, was published in 2015. He lives in the Mexican-American borderlands.
"In . . . 'A Song for the River, ' readers encounter yet another profound and memorable set of pages about personal loss but also -- in sweeping and memorable passages -- an intense return to the natural and philosophical terrain of the forest and what it's like to watch it burn."-- L.A Times
"With A Song for the River, [Connors] secures a spot on the same bookshelf with Edward Abbey and Aldo Leopold." -- New Mexico Magazine
"Once again, Philip Connors demonstrates why he's one of the most interesting writers in America. His prose--confessional, angry, wise, mesmerizing--has never been better. A Song for the River is about wildness within and without, and it's as bracing as an early-morning chill. I loved this book." --Tom Bissell, author of Magic Hours
"Edward Abbey meets funeral pyre in this dirge by Connors...His is an important voice in the fight for the soul of the West." --Michaela Riding, The Inkslinger
"A new book from Connors is always welcome, and A Song for the River--both an elegy for lost friends and a biography of New Mexico's beautiful Gila River--delivers more of what made his previous efforts so compelling: humanity, lyricism, and top-notch nature writing." -- Omnivoracious, The Amazon Book Review
"An evocative nature writer, Connors takes the reader into the aerie of his perch over the wilderness and meditates on the need for and nature of fire. And -- although his occupation is by definition solitary -- this is also an elegy for lost friends, a paean to the importance of human connection, and a lyrical encomium to the restorative powers of nature."--Christine Wald-Hopkins2018 Southwest Books of the Year, Pima County Public Library
"A new book from Connors is always welcome, and A Song for the River--both an elegy for lost friends and a "biography of New Mexico's beautiful Gila river--delivers more of what made his previous efforts so compelling: humanity, lyricism, and top-notch nature writing." --Jon Foros, Amazon 2018 Best Nonfiction Books
"[Connors'] prose is simple, yet eloquent and elegant, and reminds you, amid talk of walls, of the powerful forces of nature." --Alfredo Corchado"Texas Authors' Favorite Books of 2018," Texas Monthly
"This moving essay collection, a new classic of the nature writing genre, weaves together wondrous descriptions of the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, tales of Connors's comrades in wilderness preservation, and poignant meditations on living, dying, love, and grief." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Philip Connors' A Song for the River is nothing short of spectacular. With deep, clear-eyed honesty, Connors weaves the tragic story of friends gone too soon within the tale of a region, its haunting wilderness, and a meandering river. Beautifully nuanced and written in masterful prose, this is a necessary read." --Alfredo Corchado, author of Midnight in Mexico
"Everything that is absent in the current political crises of this nation is abundantly present in Philip Connors' A Song for the River: humility, quietude, forgiveness, and gratitude. His writing is pure, exact, compassionate, and often elegaic... I loved this book." --Benjamin Alire Sáenz, winner of the PEN/Faulkner for Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club
"Connors weaves in captivating environmental and fire science issues, but his ruminations about new burns ('the birthday for the next forest'), interspersed with contemplations on finding meaning and solace after catastrophic loss, offer a dazzling display of emotion, too. Intensely intimate, Song feels written for the Gila, the souls lost and those who love them, but ends up a beautiful, voyeuristic experience that brings the reader into the fold." -- Shelf Awareness, starred review
"In the literary tradition of Gary Snyder and Edward Abbey, Philip Connors climbs down from his fire lookout to tell a story of love and loss along the sacred waters of the Gila River, in the heart of the Gila Wilderness, a place of rock and ruins, juniper and pine. The book was a page-turner for me, lyrically paced and a real pleasure to read." --Doug Peacock, author of Grizzly Years
"In the sytle of Annie Dillard, Anne LaBastille, and Aldo Leopold, Connors interlaces . . . stories in a poignant plea for change--in our attitudes toward nature as well as to all forms of life."-- Library Journal, starred review
"A Song for the River is a singular book, resistant to categorization. Is it nature writing or confession? Obituary or farce? Consult Walden all you'd like, but Thoreau never wrote any side-splitting descriptions of backcountry prostate massage. Nor, in a canon dominated by stoics, are you likely to encounter vulnerability this naked..."--Ben Goldfarb, High Country News