Tale from the Wilderness Kicks Off Lecture Series
Rick Bass Reads from Short Story Collection, Advises Literature Students
Sept. 25, 2009
Author Rick Bass launched the inaugural season of the Arts and Humanities Lecture Series at UT Dallas with a fiction reading Tuesday night in the Jonsson Performance Hall.
He read a selection from his acclaimed 2007 short story collection The Lives of Rocks titled “Her First Elk,” in which an inexperienced young hunter inadvertently poaches an elk buck in the Montana wilderness, then gets a lesson in field dressing from the very landowners on whose property she trespassed.
Bass’ understated reading style complemented the precise, matter-of-fact narrative tone of a story that, like many of his stories, was written at the intersection of what he calls “the nature of the human heart and the heart of human nature.” That moment came when Bass read the scene in which the landowners, both of who were hard-nosed, reserved ranchers, asked her what she had planned to do after she shot the enormous animal:
Jyl patted her hip. “I’ve got a pocketknife,” she said. Both brothers looked at each other and then broke into incredulous laughter, with tears coming to the eyes of the younger one.
“Might I see it?” the younger one asked when he could catch his breath, but the querulous civility of his question set his brother off to laughing again — they both broke into guffaws — and when Jyl showed them her little folding pocketknife, it was too much for them and they nearly dissolved.
Much of the native Texan’s writing is set in the American West, specifically the wooded Yaak Valley wilderness in the northwest corner of Montana he now calls home. After his reading, Bass fielded audience questions that touched on his transition from petroleum geologist to environmental activist, including his 23-year-long efforts to protect his beloved Yaak Valley from further development.
He also offered writing advice to the audience members, many of whom are Art & Performance and Literary Studies majors at UT Dallas (“At first, my writing sucked, but, because I didn’t know it sucked, it didn’t matter”). One enterprising audience member even attempted to extract some details about the income Bass generates from his writing (“It’s sad, really”).
Much of Rick Bass’ writing is set in the American West, specifically the wooded Yaak Valley wilderness in the northwest corner of Montana he now calls home.
Arts and Humanities Lecture Series
All lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the Jonsson Performance Hall. They are free and open to the public.