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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

January 06, 1991|Alex Raksin

THE WAKE OF THE UNSEEN OBJECT: Among the Native Cultures of Bush Alaska by Tom Kizzia (Henry Holt: $19.95; 275 pp.). Feeling lost amid the shopping malls and parking lots dominating his native New Jersey, journalist Tom Kizzia decided to seek spiritual renewal by building a cabin in the meadows of Alaska. Such a sentimental vision of nature as an antidote to culture would seem to set him squarely in the overcrowded genre of mid-1980s nature writers such as Barry Lopez. But his story soon assumes an adventurous style more reminiscent of '70s nature writers such as Edward Abbey. When developers intrude on his once-pristine cabin, he resolves to "nourish his sense of the sacred and enduring" by traveling with an Eskimo tribe instead. The tribe he lingers with is hardly pure--villagers retell old stories over CB radios and sell carvings of Buddha-like figures based on the design of a Kansas City art teacher--but they welcome him into their rituals and he soon finds himself basking in a sort of aboriginal pride when a girlfriend embraces him on his return from a hunt.

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