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October 04, 1992|CHARLES SOLOMON

CELEBRATING THE LAND: Women's Nature Writings, 1850-1991 edited by Karen Knowles (Northland: $12.95; 126 pp., paperback original). The works of 20 authors in this collection disprove the notion that nature writing is an essentially male domain. "Rural Hours" by Susan Fenimore Cooper (James' daughter) was originally published in 1850--four years before "Walden." Her account of walking in the Otsego Lake area of New York juxtaposes 19th-Century propriety (she uses a parasol to measure a fallen tree) with a hard-hitting condemnation of the woodcutters who were rapidly deforesting the region. In an excerpt from "The Edge of the Sea" (1950), Rachel Carson blends science and poetry, while Maxine Kumin reflects on the cozy pleasures of rural life in an essay from "In Deep" (1987). With the exception of Ursula Le Guin's silly attempt to portray the eruption of Mount St. Helens as a manifestation of sisterhood, this satisfying anthology is pleasantly free of cant.

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