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”).


Media Contact: Jimmie Markham, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4995, jrm014010@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Rick Bass

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

Oct. 15
W.J.T. Mitchell: “World Pictures: Globalization and Visual Culture.”  Mitchell, the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago and editor of Critical Inquiry, will discuss visual and verbal representations in the context of social and political issues.  (Co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute)

Feb. 24
Jane Kamensky: "History Inside Out: Ten Things Writing Fiction Taught Me about Crafting the Past.” The award-winning historian, who teaches courses in colonial, American, women’s and family history, and historical writing, is chair of the history department at Brandeis University.

April 12
Stanley Fish, the New York Times blogger is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

All lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the Jonsson Performance Hall.  They are free and open to the public.

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