Price, John (T.) 1966-
PRICE, John (T.) 1966-
PERSONAL: Born 1966, in Fort Dodge, IA; married; wife's name, Stephanie (a teacher); children: Benjamin, Spencer. Education: University of Iowa, B.A., M.F.A., Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—Council Bluffs, IA. Office—University of Nebraska at Omaha, Department of English, 6001 Dodge St., ASH 189G, Omaha, NE 68182. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Author and educator. University of Nebraska at Omaha, associate professor of English and creative writing.
AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize nomination, 1998; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 2004-05.
Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Nature writer and English professor John Price found the inspiration for Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands in the aftermath of a tremendous flood that occurred in Iowa in 1993. Price, a native of the region, was studying at the University of Iowa during this time, and anticipated leaving the state to look for work as a newly minted English Ph.D. "Despite having grown up in the Midwest, Price said he didn't feel connected to the land and had wanted to leave," reported Phil Rooney in a profile of Price for the Council Bluffs, Iowa Daily Nonpareil Online. "The job market also raised the possibility he might have to move away. Then came the floods." Rooney noted that Price discovered that the rising waters brought with it "incredible destruction and incredible natural beauty." Scoured by the floodwaters, the land rebounded with a luxurious, wild growth of native plants and grasses. Previously unseen birds and animals returned to a renewed environment. Price recognized the beauty of what he was seeing: the return of the land to a primal state that had not existed since the Iowa prairies were tamed for farming and human habitation. Watching the land heal itself "created a longing in him for the lost land, the prairies and the wetlands and the native habitats that have been destroyed" by the inexorable expansion of human enterprise, Rooney commented.
In Not Just Any Land Price considers the characteristics of the grasslands and the deeply felt sense of place that the area engenders in many of its residents. He also looks closely at the methods used by four prominent literary figures—Mary Swander, Dan O'Brien, Linda Hasselstrom, and William Least Heat-Moon—in communicating the sense of place inspired by these grassland areas. Using both incisive interviews and analysis of their works, Price explores how these authors "have managed to be faithful to the land and themselves," remarked Kirk Zebolsky in his America review. Price conducts his interviews with the writers in the places each is most closely associated with: Least Heat-Moon in the Flint Hills of Chase County, Kansas; Swander in the rural areas of eastern Iowa; and Hasselstrom and O'Brien in the Dakota grasslands. The writers discuss their concept of regional writing, the writing life, and the personal connections they have forged to the places in which they live and work. "Price shows a talent for asking the right questions and for listening carefully and critically to his subjects," commented M. W. Cox in Choice. Booklist critic Danise Hoover held a similar opinion, noting that "Price is a gifted writer, but perhaps he's most talented as an interviewer."
Price's work in writing Not Just Any Land encouraged him to reexamine his own concept of place and his role as a writer concerned with regional environments and issues, noted Library Journal reviewer Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman. He has expressed his hopes for a restoration of the land, an effort that was being helped along by the creation of a number of nature preserves and the reintroduction of bison in places such as the Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge. "Beginning and concluding with memoir and creative nonfiction, and blending these with extensive interviews, Price, with his informal and upbeat style, lightened with self-deprecating humor, depicts both the grief and hope needed for the healing he envisions," Zebolsky stated. Delaney-Lehman commented that Price's "inspiring work will have readers pondering their own relationship with and responsibilities to the land," while Ed Imhoff concluded in the Virginia Quarterly Review that the book's readers "will come to understand more about the motivations and complex relationships that go along with being a writer of place."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, November 22, 2004, Kirk Zebolsky, review of Not Just Any Land: A Personal and Literary Journey into the American Grasslands.
Booklist, April 1, 2004, Danise Hoover, review of Not Just Any Land, p. 1341.
Choice, November, 2004, M. W. Cox, review of Not Just Any Land, p. 486.
Library Journal, May 1, 2004, Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, review of Not Just Any Land, p. 137.
Virginia Quarterly Review, fall, 2004, Ed Imhoff, review of Not Just Any Land, p. 290.
Daily Nonpareil Online (Council Bluff, IA), http://www.nonpareilonline.com/ (October 25, 2004), Phil Rooney, "Author Connects with the Land."
University of Nebraska at Omaha Web site, http://www.unomaha.edu/ (November 18, 2004), "John Price."*