Karsten Heuer, Being Caribou

A colleague of mine today, when she saw me heading for class with a pile of books related to animality, with Karsten Heuer's Being Caribou perched on top, exclaimed, "Being Caribou? Oh! I really didn't like that book. Ugh." I may be slightly misrepresenting the disapproving grunt with which she wrapped up her thumbnail review, but disapproving she most certainly was.

This made my opening remarks not five minutes later a little anxious, but the good reasons for someone teaching Canadian literature to find Heuer's book outside their ken aren't especially relevant to what I want my students to get from the book. The blend of phenomenology and spirituality, the faith in the real, the narrative linearity: these aren't what gets you a room in the CanLit hotel, so to speak, but they're crucial to any understanding of environmentally inflected literature. I resist spirituality as well, and I'm suspicious of anyone claiming too much (or too loudly) to have faith in the real, but anyone who knows me well will see in me, I think, a desire for ecological connection with place.

CanLit be damned, because this book's been written to express a thorough desire for connection. As one of my students said today, it's a book that can make you jealous -- she meant of the expedition, but I'm jealous of how close to success Heuer came in his attempt at transparent writing.

(And I've talked about the book before, so this doesn't count as a new read!)


jo(e) said…
I loved that book -- and the way he takes us along on the journey.
richard said…
I loved it, too, as well as the movie (that you can see online from his site, if you haven't seen the whole thing yet). I've got his newest movie Finding Farley here, but I haven't watched it yet.

Had you known of his work before he was invited to ASLE '09 in Victoria?
jo(e) said…
I think I'd heard of him, but I didn't actually read the book until after ASLE '09.

I'm already looking forward to the upcoming ASLE conference. A couple of my friends will have cars in Bloomington and we want to find an old quarry to go swimming in. I keep getting all kinds of promises from ASLE men about how they are going to pose for my blog, but we'll see if that actually happens....
richard said…
For the record, I've never made such a promise.

And I'm looking forward to Bloomington as well: it promises to be a pretty great gathering.

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