Harvard Book Store welcomes renowned writer and conservationist TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS for a discussion of her latest book, Erosion: Essays of Undoing.
Terry Tempest Williams is one of our most impassioned defenders of public lands. A naturalist, fervent activist, and stirring writer, she has spoken to us and for us in books like The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks and Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. In these new essays, Williams explores the concept of erosion: of the land, of the self, of belief, of fear. She wrangles with the paradox of desert lands and the truth of erosion: What is weathered, worn, and whittled away through wind, water, and time is as powerful as what remains. Our undoing is also our becoming.
She looks at the current state of American politics: the dire social and environmental implications of recent choices to gut Bears Ears National Monument, sacred lands to Native People of the American Southwest, and undermine the Endangered Species Act. She testifies that climate change is not an abstraction, citing the drought outside her door and at times, within herself. Images of extraction and contamination haunt her: “oil rigs lighting up the horizon; trucks hauling nuclear waste on dirt roads now crisscrossing the desert like an exposed nervous system.” But beautiful moments of relief and refuge, solace and spirituality come―in her conversations with Navajo elders, art, and, always, in the land itself. She asks, urgently: “Is Earth not enough? Can the desert be a prayer?”
“Terry Tempest Williams’s voice in the clamor is like a hot desert wind blowing away the litter in a crowded room and leaving behind only what has weight, what is essential. These are essays about the courage to face what is most brutal and monstrous, by finding what is most beautiful and merciful.” ―Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them by Their True Names
“Luminous, fearless, brutally honest. But with this latest book, Williams takes her spiritual love of the American West―along with her grief, anger and exasperation at what we continue to do to this place―to a new level. If John Muir ever wrote like this, most of the West would be in wilderness protection by now. As well, she knows her way to the human heart.” —Timothy Egan, author of The Immortal Irishman
“Terry Tempest Williams is our great activist laureate. Working out of the lineage of Dickinson, O’Keeffe, D. H. Lawrence, and, later, Abbey and Peacock, she is nonetheless singular and extraordinarily original. She is rooted as juniper yet ephemeral as a sand dune. The forces that have eroded her are rapture and grief. What remains is elemental beauty.” ―Rick Bass, author of For a Little While
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.