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Xerophilia: Ecocritical Explorations in Southwestern Literature
By Tom Lynch. Texas Tech University Press. 264 pp. Index. $35.00.
As used here, xerophilia represents one's immersion into the natural world both physically and psychologically. This book is for readers familiar with such writers as Frank Waters, Pat More, Charles Bowden, Edward Abbey, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ann Zwinger, Janice Emily Bowers,Gary Paul Nabhan, Ofelia Zepeda, and numerous others. Among the topics discussed are a acequias in the upper Rio Grande bioregion along with the distinctive culture that grew around them. The biological diversity of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, which include both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts is an important topic,and we learn that thirty-one percent of its species is listed as endangered. A chapter studies the importance of invertebrates to the desert's ecology, which the author refers to as bioregional consciousness. In additon, chapters look into various authors' philosophical and sensory immersion into naturalo or ecological aesthetics. []
This book can be read, and enjoyed, on at least three levels: a reprise of passages from Ed Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Ann Zwinger, Charles Bowden, Jan Bowers, and Gary Nabhan. Or, a discussion of nature writing and how to enliven it with five senses or by looking at overlooked creatures like invertebrates. Or, a pitch for the value of regional literature, bioregional emphasis, and what the author calls eco-criticism. You’ll be challenged on all fronts (how do you keep regional literature from becoming provincial?) and you’ll enjoy new insights (the Spanish language, with its Arabic borrowings, is suited to our arid Southwest landscape, but English is not). Literary criticism smacks of academia, but think of those lively English class free-for-all debates not the stupefying standardized grammar tests. It can lead to a better understanding of our region. []

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