Usually, I am leery, at best, about people who regard themselves as qualified to attempt to shape, influence, or form broad opinion about art. I find that more personal critiques of art (such as opinions shared by friends who have common interests) usually prove more palatable and valid. This is especially true when the art form in question is literary. An individual's collected experiences lend to a unique, and completely valid vantage or perspective when surveying literary terra incognita. Hence, more often than thinking about a book as being "bad or "good," I tend to think of books and their readers as being well- or ill-paired. After reading Ms. Ross's review of Mr. Gorman's book, The American Wilderness: Journeys into Distant and Historic Landscapes, I immediately thought Ms. Ross an ill-suited audience for this book. In her critique, I felt a significant injustice had been committed and felt that I would be committing a greater disservice to my fellow outdoorsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists, if I did not speak in favor of this book.
Succinctly stated, Mr. Gorman's book is brilliant! The photographs are, at least, gallery quality and the prose, quite near sublime. The book is an epiphany for the wilderness aesthete, for those few who are still capable of being profoundly moved by the beauty of the simple façade and the complex underpinnings of nature. I imagine Mr. Gorman as a modern-day Thoreau, complete with zoom lens, extolling the virtues of one of our last true Public Goods (the American wilderness). Often, it seems that Wilderness Advocates, like Mr. Gorman, speak to an indifferent or hostile audience. Having said all this, I believe that one must approach such a book with some intellectual curiosity and preferably the potential for appreciation, maybe even some great love or admiration of nature. Otherwise, one's comments are strictly academic, only as valid as the observations of an atheist on the nature of faith. Those who tend to agree with Ms. Ross's assertion that "... Perhaps nature is by nature boring," would probably be better-off proceeding to the "murder-mysteries" aisle. For everyone else, this is an insightful, well-conceived survey of the American wilderness.