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The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  588 ratings  ·  70 reviews
GQ called the three short novels in this collection "wondrous." A woman returns to live on her family's west Texas ranch . . . a man tracks his wife through a winter wilderness . . . an ancient ocean buried in the foothills of the Appalachians becomes a battleground for a young wildcat oilman and his aging mentor. Here is Bass at his magical, passionate, and lyrical best. ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 30th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1997)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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Rule #1, if you’re going to write a book for me to read, take all the guesswork out of it, eliminate all chances otherwise, name it “The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness.”

A few years ago I unearthed The Watch in the bargain bin of the local used bookstore. Rick Bass I’d never heard of, but it was short stories, it was the south and west, and Clyde Edgerton (I had never read him, but he’s our local Durham author) said “There is enough energy in this book to shake a house.” Well, okay then. I read “
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top10, favourites, maps
Original review

'The Myth of Bears' and 'Where The Sea Used to Be' - two novellas unlike any I've read. The first: a fight for territory, possession & freedom. The prose is heady, primal and disquieting.

In the second, (my personal favourite), Wallis, an oilman, is in competition with the richest man in Mississippi. Wallis is like the silence after a door slams, or the echo, he's barely present, there is so much space around him. He decides he might like to fall in love. Not with the girl with
Kirk Smith
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, own
Meh. Sometimes "magical" is not credible. ...more
There are some extremely rare books that are great for the way they can change the way you think, change who you are. And then there are books, rare more, that don't change you but instead make you understand who you already are, but just never saw so clearly until you've read the book and said "Yes! Yes, that is exactly what I mean, exactly what I've felt all along." Often, books like these are written by philosophers or mystics. Recently for me, Simone Weil played that comforting role when I r ...more
Steven Gilbert
How in all of my years, the works of Rick Bass have managed to elude me, I'll never know. But I'm fortunate that his writing is, as the blurb on the cover suggests, timeless. And also lyrical, poetic, thoughtful, passionate, powerful, natural, extraordinary.... ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
This collection consists of two long stories and the title novella. The first story, “The Myths of Bears,” is a third-person omniscient narrative about a very tough woman married to a crazed trapper named Trapper. Most of it involves the two of them after she escapes from him into the winter woods. It’s powerful, emotional, and perverse, and beautifully written.

The title novella is a first-person narrative by an equally remarkable woman, looking back mostly on her life as a child before and afte
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it

I've decided I need to pay more attention to the order in which I read books. To move from one to another with equal strides, not having to over stretch between genres or styles. I recently devoured Patrick DeWitt's Sisters Brothers; dazzled by his witty dialogue and cool characters.
Then I turned to this. I was initially underwhelmed; the first novella with its free-flowing prose and circular themes, subsiding then resurfacing, left me unmoved. Then came Where the Sea Used To Be, and I slowly
I found this book of novellas in a lookout tower on vacation last week and it totally blew my mind. One of my favorite things in life is when serendipity sends a book my way that I have never heard of and may never have found any other way. And, good news for me, Rick Bass has other books!

In all 3 novellas, the sense of place is incredibly rich, and they all take place mostly outdoors. Perfect to read while camping at a lookout. All 3 also have a slow-burn intensity to them that hooked me withou
Dec 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
All three of the novellas in this book are quite good, but the third one really stands out. On the surface, it's the story of a woman growing up on a ranch in Texas. But really it's a an homage to a beloved and beautiful place. Bass does a wonderful job of bringing the ranch--its history, plants, animals, and more--to life through the eyes of the narrator. A lot of the fiction I read is about places more than people, but I can think of few books that brought a place to life better than this one. ...more
Michael Whitaker
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020readinglist
“Where The Sea Used To Be” has to be one of my favorite stories by Bass. I intend to read it again and again. On its own, Wallis and Old Dudley is 5 stars. Beautiful story about passion and contentment. The ending sings.

I liked the “Myths of Bears” too.

The title story for me was, well, the first real disappointment for me from Bass. Beautifully written and at times engaging, it felt like an overlong sermon on the beauty of nature and man’s place in it. Important lessons, and I was affected by so
Tali Treece
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The Myths of Bears" of bears is about a trapper, "Where the Sea Used to Be" about an oil well driller, and "The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness" about a conservationist who is so staunch about keeping the wild wild that she believes it's wrong to tag birds' legs. Three opposing views of the land and its plenty, and yet Rick Bass deals equitably with all, rejoicing where his characters rejoice and weeping where they weep. And the language! Rick Bass is one of the great writers of our time, in my ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Three stories; two of them long, short stories (?) and the novella length title story. They are all about the relationships between people and the land. I liked all three but the title story was the second best thing I've read this year. ...more
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This was the second book I've read by Rick Bass, the first being "In the Loyal Mountains", and I was once again very impressed. In this collection of 3 novellas, Bass eloquently and deftly takes us through stories in landscapes as varied as the hidden oil deposits of coastal Alabama, to the rugged countryside of Montana, to a lonely multi-generational ranch in West Texas, in each capturing the enduring relationships between people and the natural world.

The title novella is likely one of the fav
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness' is probably the best short story (novella, in truth) I've ever read. Everything is magically brought to life and quite evocative. Grandfather is hilarious (I laughed as well when the professor was brought out; so out of place) and I like how jarring his personality was when not filtered by Anne's memories.

The other two stories were great as well, although 'Where The Sea Used to Be' seems oddly abrupt as if there should be more to it.

All in all this was a fant
T.Y. Lee
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This author took me by surprise. I became his characters. Their stories were my stories. I could smell the air, the trees... I could count all the stars. Rick Bass found a way to take me there (any "there") and wrap me in his subtle and deliberate choice of words. And when I finished reading, I was strangely uncomfortable.

He signed my book. Be jealous. =)
Virginia Moss
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book of short stories. The one story about Texas and how our world is changing really hit home with me. I'm seeing it in my lifetime and it makes me feel sad for future generations. ...more
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Why didn't I know about Rick Bass. Exceptional prose. Three novellas. Extraordinary. ...more
Sep 12, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My foray into the bibliography of Rick Bass hasn't been proving successful. The first long story in here had the flavors of extremity to be found in his first two collections, but limited, even stinking of the sexist pioneer days, as a wild couple split up, and while she eludes him, he considers how to trap her to make her stay with him. Bass is working on the idea of these two being feral, of course, but still, its sensibility that a man has to be possessive and objectify in order to show his l ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this a year ago and have thought about the stories often. I picked it back up to reread certain bits and instantly remembered how gripping and wonderous the stories are. For those interested in short stories, mythical stories, the landscape of the west, or just looking for a good story to read around a campfire I highly recommend this collection. I read two other of Bass's books after this that I also liked and will continue to work through his books. ...more
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't really enjoy the author's style of writing. It jumps around a lot, and if you don't have experience in the events happening, then it can be hard to follow. The third novella was the best. I didn't like the first two. ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
In this collection, Rick Bass explores the relationships between humans, animals, and the natural world, and the way time threads its way through all these lives and binds them, indelibly.
He interlinks warmth, discovery, and complexity with a slow and steady progression that feels infused with reverence and magic. Mostly I’m describing the story “The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness,” but these qualities are also applicable to the others.

It’s impossible for me to do his writing justice. If you li
Andy Lawler
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Completely gorgeous.
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horse, bellow, litlit
The church of the wild.
I need some out of doors, natural world contemplative, wilderness and universe glorifying reading right now. It's about that time. When the realization of this habitual yearning finally dawns on me, the first book I always reach for is Rick Bass's collection of three novellas, The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness. The Texas-born and Montana Yaak Valley-dwelling author excels in the short form of literature. And he is one of the few American writers who can consistently and seamlessly marry his dee ...more
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of the earth and good writing!
Recommended to Britt by: meghan
Wow. This book gave me a breath I havent been able to take in a long time. If you like camping, you'll love this book. If you like nature and being in the wild, you will adore it. This is beautifully written. Poetic prose. 3 novellas, the last one is the longest, and my favorite. They are all wonderfully detailed without being too wordy. I read it in my bed or at a coffee shop or waiting somewhere for a friend, and I was immediately transported to the woods, out on land far away from a city...E ...more
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Abigail, Steinbeck fans, Kingsolver fans
In the spirit of Steinbeck, Kingsolver, and possibly London, this fiction covers a broad range of environments and a dash of environmentalism, drawing you in with characters you identify with. This is my first Rick Bass, but I can certainly see myself pulling more of his books off the shelf. Only 4 stars?! Well, there were moments that dragged a little, but it's probably 4.5 (were that possible) and it shouldn't turn you away from reading it. I particularly enjoyed the middle story entitled "Whe ...more
Jul 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is another writer who will be at ODU's lit fest in October. I am interested in the novella form (which seems to be gaining some momentum in the publishing world), and these are three good ones. Beautifully rendered sense of place and character.

Bass has written a lot of non-fiction as well (Joanna -- you might want to check it could find some through Info-Track or Project Muse on library's website).
Mar 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Rick Bass introduced me to the Yaak, Montana. It's just north of Libby, where my friend Sarah Beck grew up, a few miles south of Canada and a few miles east of Idaho. Right up there in the corner. It's probably one of the greatest places on earth. I don't think these three novellas are necessarily his best writing, but there's something about the way he understands the outdoors that makes me feel right at home. ...more
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful. The writing is so refreshing, so peaceful and calming. It really makes you feel... not feel any one thing in particular, but, just feel. Almost as if the words are transporting you to another place and time, this book is like an escape. I feel like his books are the kind you can read again and again and again, never tiring of them. I'm really glad I found Rick Bass. ...more
David Bryson
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Three novellas. The book is worth reading solely for the second one (the one the book is titled for). In it, Bass portrays a character who is more in touch with a sense of place than any other writing I can recall. Her relationship with the land she grew up on is as formative and important as are the strong bonds with her small three-generational family. I have yet to get tired of reading this.
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Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Houston, the son of a geologist. He studied petroleum geology at Utah State University and while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi, began writing short stories on his lunch breaks. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes Bass, to Montana’s remote Yaak Valley and became an active environmentalist, wo ...more

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