This public display of passion drew applause

Lamberts Downtown Barbecue is now officially a hangout for “bookies”.   At least, that was the featured author’s affectionate designation for those assembled in Lamberts’ second floor venue for last Tuesday’s “An Evening with Douglas Brinkley“, presented by Texas Book Festival and Texas Monthly.

Rice University professor Brinkley’s appearance (for The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960) initiated the new author series highlighting spring /summer book releases.  Responding to Texas Monthly Editor Jake Silverstein (author of the recent Nothing Happened and Then it Did) in informal interview mode, Brinkley’s comments at times ranged beyond the scope of Quiet World into future book territory.  I couldn’t have been the only appreciative listener convinced that this exchange–as happens with the best author events–centered on the book but was at heart fervently concerned with the issue that inspired it.

Second in Brinkley’s planned Wilderness Cycle (following The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America), Quiet World focuses on the long-standing and frequently political fight to protect Alaska’s terrain and resources.  This volume notes contributions of a large and varied field of characters, including naturalist John Muir, poet Gary Snyder, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. 

To comprehend the Alaska issue, one needs both reliable data reporting and astute perception-checking, both evident in Brinkley’s remarks.  What I found so effective was the author’s gift for conveying the epic scope of the conflict by showing its personal side.  In some instances, Brinkley achieves this by recounting contributions of larger-than-life personalities: John Muir foresaw the potential for eco-tourism; Theodore Roosevelt saved Mesa Verde.

 Wide-angle observations–such as the author’s contention that “Drill, Baby, Drill” is hardly a new theme and that resource conservation is “the single most important issue”, the “big story” that is only inconsistently reported in newspapers– underscore the need for persistent vigilance among those hoping to preserve natural treasures as “gifts to our children”. 

Brinkley credits John Muir for teaching us that “it’s OK to have a religious ecstasy about nature”.  How to best express that zeal?  Asked for examples of worthy local projects, Brinkley cited local Audubon Society groups and Barton Springs.

My recommendations?  (1) Visit your bookstore or library for one or both of Brinkley’s lovely published volumes; Round Rock Public Library has both Wilderness Warrior and Quiet World.  (2) Check out the impressive list of upcoming author appearances in the TBF/TM series to learn how you can receive invitations.

Volume Three of Douglas Brinkley’s Wilderness Cycle is due out next year: Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Stewart Udall and the Environmental Movement 1961-1964.

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