Pearl Bell speaks on what she calls “the lack of cohesive trends in American fiction.” In her search for writing characterized by originality, technical skill, and attention to the themes of family and nature, she argues that American fiction in the 1970s and 1980s had no representative writer, a situation she attributes to regional differences and the social fragmentation in the modern world. She also comments on what she sees as the politicization of both fiction and literary criticism. Kent Mullikin joins in the discussion.
In the episode’s second segment [14:50] Stephen J. Pyne discusses his book Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire, a study of the lore and literature of fire and environmentalism. He also talks about the evolutionary and historical roles of fire, fire seasons, the dangers of urban fires, and the history of environmentalist movements as they relate to fire protection and policy.
At the time of this interview, Bell was a literary critic for Commentary. Pyne, a Fellow at the National Humanities Center (1979-80), spent several summers working for the United States Forest Service at the Grand Canyon.
This edition of Soundings was conducted by Wayne J. Pond.