Chelsea Green Publishing

Sex and the River Styx

Pages:272 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603583374
Pub. Date February 18, 2011

Sex and the River Styx

By Edward Hoagland
Foreword by Howard Frank Mosher

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
February 18, 2011


Called the best essayist of his time by luminaries like Philip Roth, John Updike, and Edward Abbey, Edward Hoagland brings readers his ultimate collection. In Sex and the River Styx, the author's sharp eye and intense curiosity shine through in essays that span his childhood exploring the woods in his rural Connecticut, his days as a circus worker, and his travels the world over in his later years.

Here, we meet Hoagland at his best: traveling to Kampala, Uganda, to meet a family he'd been helping support only to find a divide far greater than he could have ever imagined; reflecting on aging, love, and sex in a deeply personal, often surprising way; and bringing us the wonder of wild places, alongside the disparity of losing them, and always with a twist that brings the genre of nature writing to vastly new heights. His keen dissection of social realities and the human spirit will both startle and lure readers as they meet African matriarchs, Tibetan yak herders, circus aerialists, and the strippers who entertained college boys in 1950s Boston. Says Howard Frank Mosher in his foreword, the self-described rhapsodist "could fairly be considered our last, great transcendentalist."


Booklist Starred Review-

Naturalist and essayist extraordinaire Hoagland does write about sex and death, as the title to his new, reverberating autobiographical collection promises. But nature is his overarching, enrapturing, and heartbreaking focus. In his foreword, Howard Frank Mosher dubs Hoagland “our last great Transcendentalist,” a designation earned in the first of 13 vigorous and bracing essays as Hoagland portrays himself as a book-loving, solitude-thriving, avidly attentive boy with a stutter who finds bliss and enlightenment in the woods just beyond his Connecticut home. Not only do the specificity of Hoagland’s memories and the rapture of his descriptions attest to the transforming powers of nature, this evocation of a lush lost world also reveals how drastically life has changed during Hoagland’s seven decades on earth. Self-described “rhapsodist” Hoagland mourns the decimation of ecosystems, calling out the names of fallen species as casualties in our wars “against the splendid diversity of nature.” He also recounts with flinty humor and candor his adventures with the circus, his travels in Africa and India, his love life, and the struggles and revelations of age. An astute social critic, Hoagland sharply contrasts the pallid cyber realm with life’s glorious hurly-burly. Fueled by zest, zeal, mischief, awe, and compassion, master writer Hoagland is exacting, gritty, and exalting.

ForeWord Reviews-

Literature is one of the few places left for savoring the gifts of maturity; in this vein, the musings and conclusions of Edward Hoagland, long-time essayist, must not be missed. Hoagland has traveled widely—the essays in this book take the reader to Africa, Asia, and the American West—but he is also the kind of observer who dives deep into a moment, observing in minute and ecstatic detail the life around him.

For Hoagland, now nearly eighty, aging "is not a serene occupation." In this collection he reflects on his life and loves, principal among them his great love for nature, and his perspective on the technological, environmental, and human problems the world faces. His vision is not optimistic: he anticipates "the widespread death of nature, the approaching holocaust of famines, while Westerners retreat in veiled panic into what they prefer to regard as the realer world of cyberspace." He's frank about his own mortality: he'd rather not be around for the world's demise, but he's not without humor either. When death comes, "The politics will be less rancid, my dentistry at an end, and the TV off."

The ecstasy that Hoagland observes in nature is here in large measure, in both the delightful content of his observations, and the rich, multi-layered, half-wild quality of his prose. While he claims to be tired of elegy, these essays are nothing if not finely wrought examples that linger on the beauty of the beloved. Hoagland himself, happy, modest, and affectionate, is a companionable guide, and his worries are humanely articulated. Nature is a source of such joy and empathy, he notes, that surely humans are meant to be part of a larger community. When birds "arrow overhead…part of us exults, much as marbling of a moonlit sky or the scent of cedar trees uplifts our mood. This wider span of responsiveness indicates affinities we haven't catalogued." His honest and sympathetic voice rambles over politics, too, in a remarkable essay on "The American Dissident," and, as the collection's title indicates, sex and death.

Accomplished and prolific—with over twenty books to his name—Hoagland provides a view both historical and wise. This book will be a fitting addition to any public or private collection of his work, or a good place to start reading him. His considered and considerable gifts are an important facet of American thought, poised as we are on the verge of further loss.

"A masterwork on aging in men [from] America's most intelligent and wide-ranging essayist-naturalist."--Philip Roth

"A superb collection - and more than that, a powerful narrative of the life of the man himself."--Paul Theroux

"Hoagland is our wild world's literary virtuoso."--Annie Proulx

"'The seething underpinnings of life's flash and filigree..." Those words from Edward Hoagland's new book of essays, Sex and the River Styx, are an apt description of all of his work. His eloquence frees readers from nostalgia for the "old days" as he writes of life's variety--from elephants' toes to the red of a rooster's comb."--Paula Fox, author of News From the World

Huntington News-
If you're an omnivorous reader, you've probably noticed a shortage of essay collections at the library or bookstore. One of our best essayists -- his output fills nine books -- John Updike, died in January 2009. I haven't seen much output from Gore Vidal these days. He's still active, I believe, and -- although I don't agree with a lot of his views, he's one of our literary lions and a major essayist. Norman Mailer: gone, died in 2007.Take heart, there is still Edward Hoagland, represented in his new collection, with an introduction by Howard Frank Mosher, Sex and the River Styx. Often typecast as a nature essayist -- a modern incarnation of Henry David Thoreau -- Hoagland's range is much wider, with the collection containing thirteen linked essays exploring his childhood wandering in the woods in rural connecticut, his days as a circus worker, chronicled in detail in "Cat Man," one of his more than twenty books; his experience visiting the Ugandan family he has been assisting with monthly cash contributions, and, of course, the experience of growing old.The title essay, "Sex and the River Styx," comes at the end of the book and will shock and amaze you, as it did me, with its frank exploration of dirty old men, "old scamps and leches" as Hoagland calls them. What a wonderful look at aging, something I now can appreciate since I was born in the same decade as Hoagland, only six years later. Hoagland also explores aging in "A Country for Old Men," a nice spin on Cormac McCarthy's novel "No Country for Old Men."How old is Hoagland? He was born Dec. 21, 1932 in New York City, so he's 78. He's of the generation of Updike, also born in 1932, and Philip Roth, born in 1933. Like Paul Theroux, born in 1941, Hoagland is also a travel writer, but like Theroux one with a difference. Hoagland focuses on the disappearance of wild spaces, in Vermont and in the African veldt and in other parts of Africa, including the Congo, the site of perhaps the most unreported war. Some five million people have been killed in what has been called "the Great War" of Africa since it began in the mid-1990s. Next month, I'll be reviewing a book on this vastly underreported conflict, "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters."To read Hoagland's account of his visit to Kampala, Uganda, titled "Visiting Norah," is to experience the country fully, much as we do when we read Paul Theroux. You get a view of the city and the nation and the people who are barely hanging on in a country that has been devastated by misrule for generations. It's unsurpassed. If you like Theroux -- and Thoreau -- you'll love Hoagland.In the opening essay, "Small Silences," which occupies 31 pages, gives us a autobiographical peek at Hoagland. In this relatively small amount of space, the reader gets a surprisingly detailed portrait of the author, who moved, at the age of eight, from New York City to rural Connecticut where he enjoyed a childhood straight out of "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn." He also reveals his experiences as a stutterer, his sexual awakening as a pre-teen and his experiences of racism as he observed his Missouri-born father reacting to the African-American women employed by the family.Perhaps more than any other literary form, essays can be reread with pleasure. This is certainly true of the essays in "Sex and the River Styx," collected magazines as diverse as Harper's Magazine, Outside, Worth, and The American Scholar.Stop mourning the disappearance of essays and their authors and pick up "Sex and the River Styx." You'll be surprised and pleased to find a great practitioner of the art of the essay. I'll leave it for you the reader to decide if Hoagland is, as Howard Frank Mosher in his foreword calls him, "our last, great transcendentalist." After all, labels are for whiskey bottles and soup cans.

Kirkus Reviews-
From the acclaimed essayist, novelist and travel writer, more deeply profound essays on the conditions of the natural world.In this outstanding collection, 78-year-old Hoagland (Early in the Season, 2008, etc.) culls 13 years of magazine writing, published in stalwarts like Harper's and Outside, for a result that, again, will draw comparisons to Thoreau. Another great naturalist, John Muir, once wrote, "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." There might not be a more apropos line to describe this book, which not only finds Hoagland reminiscing on his many widespread adventures exploring the globe in years past, but also on the connectedness between the destruction of the planet, his mortality and aging, failed love relationships and his impassioned, sometimes polemical but always articulate, brilliant thoughts on humans' abdication of responsibility to protect nature. Citing an unwavering allegiance to what's alive, Hoagland believes that "heaven is here and the only heaven we have." The author is less concerned with his own demise than with the larger unraveling of the world, and these glimmering essays avoid nostalgia or self-pity by focusing on his various entanglements, with past lovers and wives, Tibetan yak herders, a Ugandan family and the circus aerialists with whom he worked 60 years ago. Hoagland possesses the rare quality of being both thirsty to absorb knowledge and experiences and also, organically, to want to pass along what he's discovered. It's a wonder, too, that these writings, never pedagogical, allow for the world he's witnessed to stand as the star of the show.Eloquent musings from a master.

Publishers Weekly-
Naturalist, novelist, and prolific essayist, Hoagland (Cat Man) describes his love affair with nature, given a fresh twist by his conviction that "human nature is interstitial with nature, and not to be shunned by a naturalist." Thus he describes his travels to Uganda, China, India; summers while young working with the circus or when older sitting in the senior center, all in the same keen, graphic detail with which he observes cedar waxwings passing a wild cherry tree. Hoag-land's range is capacious--political dissent, Tibetan barley, his stutter, overpopulation, his wives, his pique at becoming "a dirty old man" exciting his intellect and eliciting frank, deeply felt confessions. While rarely aphoristic or witty, Hoagland's prose sings. Extensive in range, intensive in passion, the direction of these 13 essays is inexorably toward the River Styx of the title--lament and a perverse satisfaction. In a world where "fish become a factory for omega oil. Fowl for 'buffalo wings,' " only "death will save me from witnessing the drowned polar bears, smashed elephant herds, wilting frog populations, squashed primate refuges."


  • Winner - ForeWord Reviews, Book of the Year - 2012
  • Winner - Amazon Best Books of the Month (February 2011)
  • Winner - John Burroughs Medal


Edward Hoagland

Widely celebrated for his essays on travel and nature, Edward Hoagland has written more than twenty books. Both fiction and nonfiction, his works include Cat Man (his first book, which won the 1954 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship), Walking the Dead Diamond River (a 1974 National Book Award nominee), African Calliope (a 1980 American Book Award nominee), and The Tugman's Passage (a 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award nominee). He worked at the Barnum & Bailey Circus while attending Harvard in the early 1950s and later traveled around the world writing for Harper's, National Geographic, and other magazines. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships and in 1982 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hoagland was the editor of The Best American Essays 1999, and taught at The New School, Rutgers, Sarah Lawrence, CUNY, the University of Iowa, UC Davis, Columbia University, Beloit College, and Brown University. In 2005, he retired from a teaching position at Bennington College in Vermont. He lives in northern Vermont.


Loving and Leaving the Good Life

Loving and Leaving the Good Life

By Helen Nearing

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life and many other bestselling books, lived together for 53 years until Scott's death at age 100. Loving and Leaving the Good Life is Helen's testimonial to their life together and to what they stood for: self-sufficiency, generosity, social justice, and peace.

In 1932, after deciding it would be better to be poor in the country than in the city, Helen and Scott moved from New York Ciy to Vermont. Here they created their legendary homestead which they described in Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World, a book that has sold 250,000 copies and inspired thousands of young people to move back to the land.

The Nearings moved to Maine in 1953, where they continued their hard physical work as homesteaders and their intense intellectual work promoting social justice. Thirty years later, as Scott approached his 100th birthday, he decided it was time to prepare for his death. He stopped eating, and six weeks later Helen held him and said goodbye.

Loving and Leaving the Good Life is a vivid self-portrait of an independent, committed and gifted woman. It is also an eloquent statement of what it means to grow old and to face death quietly, peacefully, and in control. At 88, Helen seems content to be nearing the end of her good life. As she puts it, "To have partaken of and to have given love is the greatest of life's rewards. There seems never an end to the loving that goes on forever and ever. Loving and leaving are part of living."

Helen's death in 1995 at the age of 92 marks the end of an era. Yet as Helen writes in her remarkable memoir, "When one door closes, another opens." As we search for a new understanding of the relationships between death and life, this book provides profound insights into the question of how we age and die.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Loving and Leaving the Good Life

Helen Nearing

Paperback $25.00

A Sanctuary of Trees

A Sanctuary of Trees

By Gene Logsdon

As author Gene Logsdon puts it, "We are all tree huggers." But not just for sentimental or even environmental reasons. Humans have always depended on trees for our food, shelter, livelihood, and safety. In many ways, despite the Grimm's fairy-tale version of the dark, menacing forest, most people still hold a deep cultural love of woodland settings, and feel right at home in the woods.

In this latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees, Logsdon offers a loving tribute to the woods, tracing the roots of his own home groves in Ohio back to the Native Americans and revealing his own history and experiences living in many locations, each of which was different, yet inextricably linked with trees and the natural world. Whether as an adolescent studying at a seminary or as a journalist living just outside Philadelphia's city limits, Gene has always lived and worked close to the woods, and his curiosity and keen sense of observation have taught him valuable lessons about a wide variety of trees: their distinct characteristics and the multiple benefits and uses they have.

In addition to imparting many fascinating practical details of woods wisdom, A Sanctuary of Trees is infused with a philosophy and descriptive lyricism that is born from the author's passionate and lifelong relationship with nature: There is a point at which the tree shudders before it begins its descent. Then slowly it tips, picks up speed, often with a kind of wailing death cry from rending wood fibers, and hits the ground with a whump that literally shakes the earth underfoot. The air, in the aftermath, seems to shimmy and shiver, as if saturated with static electricity. Then follows an eerie silence, the absolute end to a very long life.

Fitting squarely into the long and proud tradition of American nature writing, A Sanctuary of Trees also reflects Gene Logsdon's unique personality and perspective, which have marked him over the course of his two dozen previous books as the authentic voice of rural life and traditions.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

A Sanctuary of Trees

Gene Logsdon

Paperback $19.95

Miraculous Abundance

Miraculous Abundance

By Charles Hervé-Gruyer and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer

The Bec Hellouin model for growing food, sequestering carbon, creating jobs, and increasing biodiversity without using fossil fuels

When Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer set out to create their farm in an historic Normandy village, they had no idea just how much their lives would change. Neither one had ever farmed before. Charles had been circumnavigating the globe by sail, operating a floating school that taught students about ecology and indigenous cultures. Perrine had been an international lawyer in Japan. Each had returned to France to start a new life. Eventually, Perrine joined Charles in Normandy, and Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin was born. 

Since then the farm has become a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, and heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement. The Miraculous Abundance of Bec Hellouin Farm is the eloquent tale of the couple’s evolution from creating a farm to sustain their family to delving into an experiment in how to grow the most food possible, in the most ecological way possible, and create a farm model that can carry us into a post-carbon future—when oil is no longer moving goods and services, energy is scarcer, and localization is a must. 

Today, the farm produces a variety of vegetables using a mix of permaculture, bio-intensive, four-season, and natural farming techniques--as well as techniques gleaned from native cultures around the world. It has some animals for eggs and milk, horses for farming, a welcome center, a farm store, a permaculture school, a bread oven for artisan breads, greenhouses, a cidery, and a forge. It has also become the site of research focusing on how small organic farms like theirs might confront Europe’s (and the world’s) projected food crisis. 

But in this honest and engaging account of the trials and joys of their uncompromising effort, readers meet two people who are farming the future as much as they are farming their land. They envision farms like theirs someday being the hub for a host of other businesses that can drive rural communities—from bread makers and grain millers to animal care givers and other tradespeople. 

Market farmers and home gardeners alike will find much in these pages, but so will those who’ve never picked up a hoe.  The couple’s account of their quest to design an almost Edenlike farm, hone their practices, and find new ways to feed the world is an inspiring tale. It is also a love letter to a future in which people increasingly live in rural communities that rely on traditional skills, locally created and purveyed goods and services, renewable energy, and greater local governance, but are also connected to the larger world.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Miraculous Abundance

Eliot Coleman, Charles Hervé-Gruyer, Perrine Hervé-Gruyer

Paperback $24.95

Strangers Devour the Land

Strangers Devour the Land

By Boyce Richardson

First published in 1974, Strangers Devour the Land is recognized as the magnum opus among the numerous books, articles, and films produced by Boyce Richardson over two decades on the subject of indigenous people. Its subject, the long struggle of the Crees of James Bay in northern Quebec—a hunting and trapping people—to defend the territories they have occupied since time immemorial, came to international attention in 1972 when they tried by legal action to stop the immense hydro-electric project the provincial government was proposing to build around them.

The Crees argued that the integrity of their vast wilderness was essential to their way of life, but the authorities dismissed such claims out of hand. Richardson, who sat through many months of the trial, mingles the scientific and Cree testimony given in court with his own interviews of Cree hunters, and experiences in gathering information and shooting films, to produce a classic tale of cultures in collision.

In a new preface, he reveals that the Crees—now receiving immense sums of money as compensation for the loss of their lands—appear to be doing well, and to be in the process of joining modern, technological culture, while retaining the spiritual base of their traditional lives. Meanwhile, Hydro-Quebec continues to eye additional rivers on the Cree’s lands for new dams.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Strangers Devour the Land

Boyce Richardson, Winona LaDuke

Paperback $25.00