Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Lives of Rocks

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The Lives of Rocks

Stories

by Rick Bass

The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2007, 224 pages

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Did you know?

In "Titan" a man recalls a boyhood vacation spent on the coast of Alabama in which he experiences a "Jubilee". Jubilee is a natural phenomena that occurs in Mobile Bay from time to time, usually before dawn on a warm summer night, when large numbers of fish, crabs and shrimps swarm close to shore, making themselves easily available to locals who come out with all sorts of containers and scoop them up in quantity. 

Jubilee appears to be caused by the natural stratification of the Bay waters, with the heavier saltwater beneath and the lighter fresh water on the top.  When the Mississippi River dumps an unusually high amount of fresh water into the bay (i.e. after heavy rains), it also dumps large amounts of nitrogen, which in turn promotes the growth of algae and zooplankton, which eventually sinks to the bottom where it decomposes, consuming available oxygen.  The stratification of the fresh and saline water prevents the mixing of oxygen-rich water from the surface with the oxygen-depleted water below, causing a hypoxic (low oxygen) zone - this forces bottom dwellers, such as flounder, eel, crab and shrimp up to the surface in search of oxygen.


Many of Bass's books, and many of the stories in The Lives of Rocks are set in the Yaak Valley in northwest Montana, his adopted home.  Bass is a member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council which works hard to protect the remaining roadless areas of the forest (about 180,000 acres) which are home to an abundance of wildlife, including grizzly bears.  97% of the Yaak Valley is public land but not a single acre is permanently protected, and the area suffers from habitat degradation due to road building and over-logging.

This article was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the October 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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