Fragments of Tile

By definition, an anthology is a collection of stories, poems, excerpts from literary works, etc., that are published together because they represent a particular time period, literary style, or theme. What to include and what to leave out is always a problem; however, The Sierra Club Desert Reader: A Literary Companion, edited by Gregory McNamee, must have presented unusual difficulties. Desert Reader comprises excerpts from fiction, poetry, travel writing, journals, folk tales, songs, and other literature about the great deserts of our world, including selections by distinguished authors, historical figures, philosophers, historians, explorers, and travelers covering a 2,000-year span. Earth's dry lands with their wild nature, vast expanses of empty space, and harsh climatic extremes have influenced human art, culture, and religion since the beginning of recorded history. In an introduction to Desert Reader, McNamee explains the problem as well as his criterion: "The deserts of the world have spawned a significant body of literature, a corpus well out of proportion to the number of people who actually dwell in them. . . . In this anthology, I have attempted to gather some of the best of that body of writing, observing the American poet Ezra Pound's dictum that literature 'is news that stays news.' I do not, of course, pretend to completeness; that is the nature of an anthology, a selection of...

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