Saturday, September 25, 2010

Book Review: "Wild Ride"

Bia Lowe's collection of essays, Wild Ride: Earthquakes, Sneezes, and Other Thrills (HarperCollins), has turned me into a fan of hers.

These 19 essays are eloquently written and cover a wide range of topics (blood, Evil, her fear of insects, bats, etc).

What makes her essays outstanding and fun to read is her ability to seamlessly blend nature writing ("Insects crept on the planet millions of years before the appearance of flowers."), social commentary ("There are no predators more bloodthirsty, indeed more inhumane, than we."), and unflinching autobiography ("For ten years I drank, like my father, like a lush.").

Lowe is unafraid to let the reader know she's "a dyke, a mammal of homoerotic persuasion," but she doesn't persistently make a big deal of it. It's only one aspect of who she is.

Lowe, a 45-year-old freelance writer, who has written for Harpers magazine and The Kenyon Review, is "a lifelong nature zealot." As a child growing up in Northern California she "saw how life asserted itself on our own ranch through all manner of new plants and animals." And, she continues, "I'm reminded of how the world is not really dominated by a human sensibility. Impudent flies keck on my window ledge. Earwigs steadily encroach, squatters under my carpet. Moths plunder bits of my wardrobe, and daddy longlegs appropriate my bedroom after dark, giving me pause before I reach to turn out the light."

Now she lives in Los Angeles with her lover, Susan, high up in the Hollywood Hills, where "I see deer, raccoon, skunk, opossum, owls."

In Wild Ride, Lowe shows the many ways all living things are interconnected ("Insects and flowers enjoy a symbiosis.") and have shared traits ("And as we are the greatest imitators of all, child after human child falls into bed clutching a worn toy cub. It's a ceremony in which we reenact the bear's maternal bond, and make our descent into the den.")

Wild Ride, like all the books published before it and all those that will follow, represents "a memory outside the body." Lowe freely admits that her "life will not outlast the forces of entropy," but she does offer a glimmer of hope regarding the immortality of her literary life: "I will be reborn...possibly, though not probably, through the curves and serifs of these words."
One of the most beautiful images in Wild Ride among the "curves and serifs" is Lowe's description of a storm: "I thought our oak had cracked in half. It was really the night that had been split, razored by light. The gape it left waited to be sealed by thunder."

In short, Bia Lowe doesn't know how to write a boring sentence.

The above review was originally published in the Manhattan Spirit, February 9, 1996.

Note: It deeply saddens me that no other books have been published by this wonderful writer.

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