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Fire Season: Field notes from a wilderness lookout Hardcover – Unabridged, 19 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Unabridged edition (19 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230758010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230758018
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 478,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Philip Connors spends his summers alone...It is a self-inflicted loneliness but, of course, everything is blissful. He is poetic and dreamy. He inflates his visions of that single mountaintop spot with an inspired and emotive lyricism....And with this book, Connors may receive deserved recognition.' --Traveller Magazine, Freddie Reynolds

'I loved Fire Season. It's a brilliant book; wry and wise and here and there shocking; its lyricism tempered by wit, and its anger by praise.' --Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places

`languid, thoughtful...beautifully lyrical' 4 star review --Metro

`full of revealing vignettes and is refreshingly candid...Fire Season proves more than a simple poetic memoir. Connors skilfully marshals his deep knowledge of the environment and we learn about the changes in the approach to wildfire and challenges to fire prevention dogma...It is a pleasure to read such an informative and lyrical account of one man's time alone in the woods. Over the past century 90 per cent of lookout towers have been decommissioned. Fire Season is a timely epistle to a dying art.' --Seven, Sunday Telegraph

`a truly remarkable book...I devoured the advance copy a couple of months ago, lured by the examples of the author's descriptive prose that littered the cover...The book's premise is so intriguing, and it's such a fascinating read that I think would appeal to such a broad range of readers that I'm going to dispense telling you about Mr Connors and this cut-off portion of the world....Connors is extremely gifted at describing the majesty of the landscape and his relationship with it....between its covers are crammed elements of nature writing, travel writing, memoir and some philosophical contemplation of the art of being alone...Above all this book is an inspirational description of one man's determination to get away from life's stresses and strains and connect with himself and the world each and every summer. Not to mention a testament to the unfathomable with my standard approach of flitting from title to title and instead spend the entire column patience of the wife who allows him to do so.' --Bath Life

`This wonderful book is a collection of his thoughts and observations...Connors ably relates the drama of fires and storms, the animals and the grandeur of nature, with a poet's eye.' --Catholic Herald

'Philip Connors' Fire Season suggests our attitude to fire is changing. Part memoir, part eco-tract, it treats fire not as something we should tame, but as an almost mystical force we should respect... Connors' words are frequently poetic.' --Big Issue, Brendan O'Neill

'Connors' lyrical account of his time in the wilderness is a true modern classic of adventure, environment, philosophy and observation...the tinder-dry landscape of New Mexico has proved fertile ground for a new and impressive literary voice.' --Lancashire Evening Post

'Fire Season makes the landscape spring to life.' --Time Out, Edoardo Albert

'After the noisy bustle of New York, he relishes the peace and communion with nature in its wildest state...This wonderfully readable, poetic meditation on the restorative quality of being quietly alone with nature and your own thoughts in a frantic age has, like its author, a lot of soul.' --Daily Mail, John Harding

'Connors' accounts of science's evolving approach to combating forest fires provide some of the book's best passages...' --Literary Review, Stephen Amidon

'He writes beautifully about the forest, both its wildlife and its history, about its wildlife and its history, about himself and about fire (which he finds slightly alarmingly exciting.)...a rich and rewarding read...One of the things that makes it rewarding is his underlying meditation on solitude. He experiences himself as having access to an extreme degree of solitude - and he is thoughtful and moving about what and why he needs this for a sense of personal fulfilment, while generously admitting than not everyone does.' --The Spectator, Sara Maitland

'His job is to watch for fires, but the bittersweet seduction of solitude has provided the space and inspiration of this beautiful book...The result is infinitely harmonious, like that perfect chat with a soulmate, by a campfire, under the stars.'
--Book of the Month, BBC Wildlife Magazine

`Connors' thoughts are the perfect combination of the mundane and the sublime...There is much to admire and remember in this book.'
--TLS Jonathan Ellis

`The most interesting parts in the book are his reflections on our place in nature and the benefits if simply being one one's own.' --Phil Bloomfield, Oxford Times

About the Author

Philip Connors has worked as a bartender, a baker, a house painter, a janitor, and an editor at the Wall Street Journal. His essays have appeared in Harper’s, the Paris Review, the Dublin Review and the London Review of Books. He lives in New Mexico with his wife and their dog.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David J. Kelly VINE VOICE on 2 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This short but interesting book covers one season of being a forest fire lookout in the Gila Wilderness Area in south-west New Mexico. The author uses the book to discuss a number of issues around the history of forest fires in the US and the changing view of forest fire as land managers come to realise that fire is an important factor in the ecology of these wilderness areas. Fire, Connors, tells us is no longer controlled at all costs and some are allowed to burn. The vegetation of these forests has, in fact, been shaped by these fires which create a healthy mosaic of different habitats ranging from grassy meadows to ancient Ponderosa pine forests.

Connors also passes on his views on many of the issues affecting the rural areas of the United States such as farm subsidies, using public land for grazing cattle, human interactions with predators such as the Grizzly Bear and the Mexican Wolf and the other authors who have shared his experience in the wilderness. He also touches on his own life whether it is his experience of 9/11 or his marriage but on the whole this book is an argument that we all need wilderness and that we interfere too much with that wilderness. We try to recast the wilderness for our needs and in doing so destroy its essence. If you enjoy books about the experience of the wild and the issues behind wilderness conservation then this book is one I would recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By hbw VINE VOICE on 30 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fire, like wildernesses and animals, has always been treated as something to be used, controlled and, when uncontrolled, suppressed and eliminated.

The history of America's relationship with its own vast wildernesses is complex, and, at times, perverse. Settlers typically cleared the land for farming, whilst the remaining forests were expected to earn their livings from recreation and hunting. Wolves (and indiginous humans) were eradicated, whilst bears (arguably more dangerous) became the epitomy of cuteness and survived. Forest fires, whose intensity can be measured in acres per second, were suppressed at all costs.

"Fire Season" tells the story of the battles to preserve a few of the remaining American wildernesses and the development of fire management, as science revealed the key role of naturally occurring fires in supporting the ecological diversity of the forests.

Author Philip Connors also sheds light on the lives of the fire lookouts who spend their summers in isolated towers in the middle of the forest and on the sometimes quirky individuals who volunteer for this work. Best of all, he gives a fascinating insight into the life and spirit of the Gila Wilderness which, thanks to the visionary work of 20th century ecologists, was the first place on earth to be given a legal right to simply exist.

Fascinating.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 May 2011
Format: Paperback
Phillip Connor once worked in the very "heart of the beast," as an editor for the Wall Street Journal, in lower Manhattan. His quest for a bit more elbow room, physical and mental, carried him about as far away from everything NYC represents, and still stay in the "lower 48." He came to a very special spot, in what we like to call the Land of Enchantment: the Gila Wilderness, purportedly the largest contiguous area in that lower 48 that is rated "pristine." For eight seasons he would hike five hours into work, and normally stay for 10 days, before hiking out for four days off. Almost always, he was alone for that period, save for the company of a very faithful dog. He manned a watch tower, alert for wisps of smoke, denoting the commencement of a fire in the forest. Sometimes the fires were caused by lightning; sometimes by humans, and their careless ways.

Connor's memoir rambles and sashays, usually in a delightful way. He provides an accurate historical account of the US Forest Service, its origins, and in particular its policies, outlook and techniques for fighting (or not) forest fires. For those interested in more details as to its origins, and the catastrophic fire in American history, I highly recommend Timothy Egan's The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America. Connor's daily life is naturally shaped by this past. Identify a fire, locate it as best one can, and then sit back and listen while the "Big Boys" determine if it should be fought or not, by whom, and with what techniques. Like the traditional journalism that he has left, he has chosen another occupation that will not exist in a few years, and he realizes it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had reservations about ordering/reading this, largely because I have vivid memories of Kerouac's mesmerising 'Dharma Bums', a luminous account of a summer season as a mountain lookout, but also because I'm wary of a book which namechecks both Kerouac and the masterly Roger Deakin, as this raises almost unrealistic expectations in my mind.
However, I'm delighted (and relieved) to be able to report that this is largely engrossing: at times a poetic and meditative rhapsody on the ancient magic of remote wilderness, at others a detailed history and analysis of society's complicated and damaging relationship to, and management of, wild places. Connors eye for detailed landscapes: mountains, forests, individual trees, and the plant, animal and insect wildlife which shelter there, paints memorable pictures. His accounts of weather,thunderstorms, night skies, and sleeping outdoors are conveyed in a spare and effective style.

My only reservations are the unnecessary inclusion of some discriminatory comment from a customer during his 'other life' as a barman in winter about 'Ay-rabbs', and the use of the term 'homeboy queers' in his account of his time in New York. I found the shift in tone quite jarring here. It also has to be said that the quality of Connors prose sometimes is more earthbound than he'd like, and that his focus at close quarters lacks definition, or raises expectation, then fails to deliver (his account of a river fishing trip concludes too early).
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