Payton, Brian 1966-
Payton, Brian 1966-
PERSONAL: Born April 23, 1966, in Torrance, CA.
ADDRESSES: Home— Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
CAREER: Writer, c. 1996—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Lowell Thomas Silver Award for best North American travel essay, Society of American Travel Writers, 2001 and 2003. MacDowell Fellow; three-time winner of Northern Lights Awards for excellence in travel journalism.
Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness, Bloomsbury/Holtzbrinck Publishers (New York, NY), 2006, published as In Bear Country, Old Street Publishing (London, England), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Globe and Mail, and Canadian Geographic. Contributor to Literary Trips 2: Following in the Footsteps of Fame.
SIDELIGHTS: Brian Payton’s Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness relates the story of the travel writer’s journeys in search of the different species of bear that still survive in the modern world. According to Payton, only eight different ursine species are left: the sloth bear, sun bear, spectacled bear, polar bear, giant panda, brown/grizzly bear, Asiatic black bear, and American black bear. Bear species, Payton finds, “now are disappearing 100 times faster than normal,” explained George Cohen in Booklist, “because of human activities.” At the same time, however, Payton recognizes that loss of habitat (the major threat to the bears’ survival) is inevitable in a world where the poorest people have to encroach on bear territory in order to survive themselves. For example, Cambodia presents Payton with a vexing conservation question: ‘Just how far are we willing to go?’” declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor. “He sees desperately poor people trying to survive; the only land available is sun-bear turf.”
For Payton, bears are not merely one of the largest land predators—they are metaphors used universally to evoke the idea of the wilderness. “Bears have inhabited our memories and even our dreams,” stated Robert E. Bieder on globeandmail.com.“Shadow of the Bear is also an exploration of how bears have shaped the psyche of humankind,” declared Shelagh Plunkett on the Bear Matters BC Web site. “Why do we fear them? Why do we worship them? What makes a sensible person want to pat a carnivorous half-ton polar bear?” “Indeed, it was a dream about a bear that propelled Brian Payton on his journeys, resulting in Shadow of the Bear,” Bieder continued. That dream, as interpreted by a Navajo medicine man, concluded a Publishers Weekly contributor, told the author that he “has a responsibility to tell his stories in respectful acknowledgment of ‘the spirit of the bear.’”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, May 15, 2006, George Cohen, review of Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness, p. 12.
Canadian Geographic, March, 2001, Rick Boychuk, “Treading Softly in a Grizzly Sanctuary,” p. 11.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Shadow of the Bear, p. 509.
Publishers Weekly, April 24, 2006, review of Shadow of the Bear, p. 46.
Vancouver Sun, July 22, 2006, Shelagh Plunkett, “Brian Payton Is Curious, Humble, and Self-Effacing Enough to Make a Good Guide on a Round-the-World Bear-Watching Trip.”
Brian Payton Home Page, http://www.brianpayton.com (January 26, 2007), author biography.