By Mike Newell
Xoxox Press, 2008
Working on seasonal wildfires in the 1970’s and 1980’s across Alaskan tundra and mountain ranges, wildland firefighter Mike Newell developed a deep appreciation for an arctic and subarctic landscape whose scale dwarfs all human effort. Returning each fire season, Newell found himself increasingly transfixed by the primal allure of the Alaskan bush. Years later, he paused in a bookshop and pulled Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams off the shelf. What he found there began to engender in Newell a sense of what one reader has described as “learned understanding of wild places.” The chance encounter with Lopez’s National Book Award winning non-fiction work began a pattern of inquiry for Newell that, over twenty years later, now culminates in the publication of No Bottom. Newell’s book features an incisive interview with Barry Lopez accompanied by a careful inquiry into Lopez’s short fiction books. Both the interview and the critical inquiry serve well as a primer for those coming new to Barry Lopez’s work and as a valuable source of insight for scholars.
Mike Newell is the author of three books of poetry —Underground Fires, The Unlived Life and Aestivation—and the newly-issued No Bottom. Following his early years as a wildland firefighter, Newell taught at-risk students in public schools and correctional facilities for over two decades, retiring in 2004. After a 19-year hiatus from firefighting in Alaska, he re-certified his fire qualifications in 2000 and went to work on western wildfires. Mike Newell lives and writes in upstate New York. (Publisher’s description)