Mark Busby examines a literary genius in ‘John Graves, Writer’
University News Service
July 18, 2007
Celebrated for Goodbye to a River, the classic environmentalist narrative calling for greater appreciation of the outdoors, author John Graves gained legendary status in
Known for his eloquent composition and prose,
The gap in the scholarship and study of
The authors fill the hole with 312 pages of interviews, appreciations, and critical essays that entertain many new insights into the man himself, as well as the themes and processes that animate his writing.
Busby, director of the
“We have a national and international consensus on global warning with the U.N. concluding that humankind has had an effect,” said Busby. “I’ve seen our graduate students turning more environmental with an interest in following the Thoreauvean (inspired by naturalist author Henry David Thoreau) tradition, and
The book scrutinizes Graves’s stature not only within
“One of our purposes was that we wanted to get his name out there,” said Busby. “He’s the unofficial dean of
“Our best writers create a recognizable trait, like Faulkner or Hemingway,” Busby said. “
Busby argues that
In a region like the Southwest, scorched to begin with, alternating between floods and droughts, its absorbent cities quadrupling their censuses every few years, electrical power and flood control and moisture conservation and water skiing are praiseworthy projects. More than that, they are essential. We river-minded ones can’t say much against them—nor, probably, should we want to.
“The clue to his real position here is the placement of water skiing in the last and emphatic position and saying, tongue firmly in cheek, that it is ‘essential,’” Busby said.
As an authority on Graves’s collective works, Busby was asked to be a part of promoting Goodbye to a River as the core text for the 2007-08 “Common Experience” at
“I think it may be the perfect book for incoming freshmen to read,” Busby said. “It takes them into a new world of weighing and questioning the balance and varied sides of different issues, something that any educated individual should have.”
This fall will mark the 50th anniversary of Graves’s trip down the
Busby introduces the book with a critical overview of Graves’s life and work, and a transcript from a symposium moderated by Busby in 2002 at the Southwestern Writers Collection, where
In the candid and humorous discussion of the author and his works, Graves responds to comments and stories from Busby, Sam Hynes, professor of literature emeritus at
In addition to these personal observations, nine scholars examine
“The book is a mixture about a great writer. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a reminiscent piece by his friends celebrating him, but an eye for his style…storytelling and philosophy,” Busby said. “