is an anatomy of solitude, a paean to a wild American landscape, a history of wildfires and those who watch them, a celebration of adventure, and a demonstration of the connection between looking hard, thinking deeply and writing brilliantly.
Philip Connors's precise narrative describes the New Mexican fire season (spring into summer) of 2009 and his experiences as a lookout during that time. His writing is tough-minded and compelling, and in it he includes political, historical, and geological surveys in addition to an overview of the cycles of destruction and rebirth that distinguish New Mexico's Gila Wilderness (see "Beyond the Book"). Connors gives an account of the literary greats who were also lookouts, such as Norman Maclean and Jack Kerouac, and delivers a powerful rendering of his time spent in nature: in boredom and exhilaration, storm and...
Beyond the Book
As a fire lookout, Philip Connors called New Mexico's Gila National Forest home. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, in 1924 this nationally protected area was established (at the advocacy of conservationist Aldo Leopold) as "the first designated wilderness in the country."
This means that "there are no roads; the only travel permitted is by foot or horseback. You will find no logging, resorts or commercial uses of any kind except grazing," which is why Connors hiked in and out to his tower and chopped his wood by hand. Today, it remains the largest, roadless wilderness in...