Most of us think that in order to be environmentalists, we have to love nature. Essentially, we should be tree huggers—embracing majestic redwoods, mighty oaks, graceful birches, etc. We ought to eat granola, drive hybrids, cook tofu, and write our appointments in Sierra Club calendars. Nature's splendor, in other words, justifies our protection of it. But, asks Benjamin Hale in this provocative book, what about tsunamis, earthquakes, cancer, bird flu, killer asteroids? They are nature, too.
For years, environmentalists have insisted that nature is fundamentally good. In The Wild and the Wicked, Benjamin Hale adopts the opposite position—that much of the time nature can be bad—in order to show that even if nature is cruel, we still need to be environmentally conscientious. Hale argues that environmentalists needn't feel compelled to defend the value of nature, or even to adopt the attitudes of tree-hugging nature lovers. We can acknowledge nature's indifference and periodic hostility. Deftly weaving anecdote and philosophy, he shows that we don't need to love nature to be green. What really ought to be driving our environmentalism is our humanity, not nature's value.
Hale argues that our unique burden as human beings is that we can act for reasons, good or bad. He claims that we should be environmentalists because environmentalism is right, because we humans have the capacity to be better than nature. As humans, we fail to live up to our moral potential if we act as brutally as nature. Hale argues that despite nature's indifference to the plight of humanity, humanity cannot be indifferent to the plight of nature.
In prose alternately stark, lush and hallucinatory, occasionally nightmarish and often absurd,
the voices in Benjamin Hale’s The Fat Artist and Other Stories speak from the margins: a dominatrix whose longtime client, a US congressman, drops dead during a tryst in a hotel room; an addict in precarious recovery who lands a job driving a truck full of live squid; a heartbroken performance artist who attempts to eat himself to death as a work of art. From underground radicals hiding in Morocco to an aging hippy in Colorado in the summer before 9/11 to a young drag queen in New York at the cusp of the AIDS crisis, these stories rove freely across time and place, carried by haunting, peculiar narratives that form the vast tapestry of American life.
“A steadily growing…talent” (Kirkus Reviews), Hale’s prize-winning fiction abounds with a love of language and a wild joy for storytelling, earning accolades from writers such as novelist Jonathan Ames, who compared discovering his work to watching Mickey Mantle play ball for the first time; Washington Post critic Ron Charles, who declared him “fully evolved as a writer,” and bestselling author Jodi Picoult, who simply called him “brilliant.” Pairing absurdity with philosophical musings on the unnerving intersections between life and death, art and ridicule, consumption and creation, “the audacious imagination evident in Hale’s acclaimed debut, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, shines again in this…provocative collection that takes a unique view of the human condition” (Booklist).