Wolfe, Swain

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Wolfe, Swain

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER: Writer and movie director. Worked variously as a logger, miner, and rancher. Films include The Sacred Bear, Phantom Cowboy, and Energy & Morality.



The Woman Who Lives in the Earth, privately printed, 1993, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.

The Lake Dreams the Sky, Cliff Street Books (New York, NY), 1998.

The Parrot Trainer, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.


The Boy Who Invented Skiing: A Memoir, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS: Swain Wolfe is a documentary filmmaker who explores topics in cultural anthropology and a novelist who employs fable forms and mystical elements to promote respect for the natural world. As a boy, Wolfe lived on ranches in Colorado and Montana. As a youth, he worked in copper mines and listened to the stories of his coworkers. Wolfe also worked as a logger, another experience that he has said changed his view of the world.

Wolfe has made films throughout the American West. Energy & Morality, one of his early works, is a film about how the use of energy affects social behavior. Phantom Cowboy explores the ways people strengthen their sense of identity through aggression and withdrawal from mainstream society. The Sacred Bear compares modern views of nature with those held by early cultures. Wolfe's films have represented the United States in the International Public Television Conference, and they have been shown at the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Wolfe's first novel was The Woman Who Lives in the Earth, which he published himself in 1993. Promoted through independent bookstores, the novel sold well and eventually caught the attention of an editor at HarperCollins, who offered the author a two-book deal and republished The Woman Who Lives in the Earth, in 1996. Written in the style of a classic fable, the novel focuses on a girl named Sarah who becomes friends with a magical fox that encourages her to form a bond with nature. Other people begin to believe Sarah has demonic abilities and should be sacrificed to end a drought that has been plaguing their village. Sarah, however, discovers a mystical way to end the drought: The townspeople must regain their sense of wonder. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor: "Wolfe's unadorned prose pushes this book toward the boundaries of young-adult fiction, as does his rather easy celebration of the virtues of simplicity and childlike wisdom over the fearful, paranoid superstitions of the throng." The reviewer also noted that The Woman Who Lives in the Earth is "charmingly told," and it "should reawaken readers to the pleasures of allegory."

Wolfe's second novel, The Lake Dreams the Sky, published in 1998, includes two alternating stories. One focuses on Liz, a Boston businesswoman who learns how to escape her hectic career when she visits her eccentric grandmother. The other story recounts the plight of two doomed lovers, Rose, a waitress raised by Red Crow Indians, and Cody, a logger. Paula Friedman, writing for the New York Times, noted that The Lake Dreams the Sky is a "love story that uses the heritage of the Red Crow Indians, with their abiding respect for the natural world, to deepen its exploration of an almost primal erotic attachment." Some reviewers also have noted that the mystical voice and atmosphere Wolfe created for the novel are especially effective.

In his novel The Parrot Trainer, Wolfe centers his story around Jack Miller, who has looted archeological treasures but is trying to reform. But Miller cannot resist temptation when he finds directions to hidden Mimbres treasures. Once he locates the cave described in the documents, he finds an ancient Mimbres bowl with a picture of a female parrot trainer painted on it. When a scorpion bites him, Jack begins to hallucinate that the trainer has come to life. The rest of the novel, which comments on Southwestern culture, archeology, and filmmaking, includes a strange assortment of characters, many of whom may or may not be real. Charles De Lint, writing in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, commented: "Wolfe obviously knows the worlds of archeology, documentary filmmaking … and philosophy. Through the dialogue of the characters, he makes all three professions an engaging delight, rather than the dry topics they might appear to be from an outsider's point of view." De Lint also wrote: "The prose is rich and expressive, while the interactions of the characters are compelling throughout." In a review for the Library Journal, Lisa Bier commented that the author "has created a surprisingly sweet narrative both real and surreal."



Kliatt, September, 2004, Nola Theiss, review of The Parrot Trainer, p. 27.

Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Lisa Bier, review of The Parrot Trainer, p. 119.

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March, 2004, Charles De Lint, review of The Parrot Trainer, p. 31.

New York Times, August 23, 1998, Paula Friedman, review of The Lake Dreams in the Sky, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, November 20, 1995, review of The Woman Who Lives in the Earth, p. 66; December 18, 1995, Karen Angel, "Independent Booksellers Help Unknown Author Land Two-Book Deal," pp. 18-19.


Swain Wolfe Home Page, http://www.swainwolfe.com (April 8, 2006).