Vaillant, John 1963(?)–
Vaillant, John 1963(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1963; married; wife an anthropologist and potter); children: two.
CAREER: Writer and freelance journalist.
The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic—Adventure, Outside, and Men's Journal.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer and freelance journalist John Vaillant lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with his wife and their two children. His writing has appeared in various publications, including the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Outside. His first book, The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, was developed out of an article he originally wrote for the New Yorker about a rare three-hundred-year-old Sitka spruce tree growing in British Columbia. The tree, which stood one hundred-sixty-five feet high, was cut down by Grant Hadwin, a logger who had become an activist. After felling the tree, Hadwin left his clothes and belongings along the shore of a river in Queen Charlotte Islands and jumped into the water while still carrying his chainsaw. Not only had the tree been an ancient part of the forest, but it had spiritual and symbolic meaning for the local Haida natives, representing a golden child from their mythology. Even logging companies had respected the old tree, including it as one of those traditionally spared when they were cutting through the forest. Hadwin disappeared soon after he chopped down the spruce, but continued to receive death threats and to be sought after for his crime. Vaillant includes a history of the tree, as well as addressing environmentalism as it affects the native Canadians, loggers, and environmentalists themselves.
According to John Marshall, a reviewer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the book relates far more than a simple story about the chopping down of a tree; it delves into history, science, and even meteorology. Marshall commented that "Vaillant's greatest accomplishment is that he not only ranges so far and wide, he weaves his disparate plot elements into a compelling narrative that is never less than fascinating. Even seemingly arcane or dense topics come resonantly alive in his masterful account with its creative comparisons, surprising insights and engaging phrasing." In a review for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Web site, Andrea Curtis wrote that "what makes the book so brilliant and unusual is that it's not a typical adventure story at all. Out of what is essentially the tale of a man and a tree, Vaillant manages to create enormous narrative tension."
Entertainment Weekly contributor Wook Kim called Vaillant's book a "scrupulously researched narrative," and Donna Seaman, writing for Booklist, remarked that Vaillant has "a firm grasp of every confounding aspect of this suspenseful and disturbing story." As a contributor for Publishers Weekly observed, "Vaillant paints a haunting portrait of man's vexed relationship with nature." Comparing Vaillant's writing to that of nature-based adventure writers Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger, Curtis called The Golden Spruce "Canada's first great new adventure book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, p. 1124.
Entertainment Weekly, April 29, 2005, Wook Kim, review of The Golden Spruce, p. 153.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2005, review of The Golden Spruce, p. 222.
Library Journal, February 15, 2005, Ilse Heidmann, review of The Golden Spruce, p. 155.
Publishers Weekly, December 23, 2002, John F. Baker, "Tale of a Tree," p. 12; February 14, 2005, review of The Golden Spruce, p. 60.
Science News, May 7, 2005, review of The Golden Spruce, p. 303.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 13, 2005, John Marshall, review of The Golden Spruce.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Web site, http://www.cbc.ca/ (July 15, 2005), Andrea Curtis, review of The Golden Spruce.
Manchester News Online (Manchester, VT), http://www.manchestervermont.com/ (July 15, 2005), "John Vaillant."
Straight.com, http://www.straight.com/ (July 15, 2005), Alexander Varty, review of The Golden Spruce.