The Book of Yaak

by Rick Bass

Rick Bass

Rick Bass was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He studied petroleum geology at Utah State University, and it was while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi that he started writing short stories during his lunch breaks. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes Bass, to Montana's remote Yaak Valley, where he works to protect his adopted home from roads and logging.

The Book of Yaak is a collection of essays describing, examining and defending Yaak Valley. Written in 1996, the book pleads for people to save the region's few remaining roadless areas. Bass says, “A love of place can fuel art, can fuel the imagination—can give nourishment to the supple, questioning, creative spirit in excess of whatever that place may receive from the taker. Art can be its own sort of advocacy for a place.” That is what Bass attempts with his descriptions of lichen on a fallen tree, stories of the few remaining grizzlies, the changing seasons, the encroachment of uncaring institutions—to paint a picture of beauty and mystery of key importance both ecologically and spiritually, and then beg us to leave it alone.

While the settings in The Book of Yaak clearly reference actual locales, it is understood that the book—including its places—is ultimately the product of the author's imagination. The intent of this literary map is to enrich the reading experience by interpreting those places, not to render them literally or definitively.