If it’s big manly books about big manly pursuits we’re after then maybe a book about hunting, killing and eating wild Buffalo, while battling bears and hypothermia in the middle of nowhere should be next on the reading list.
In 2005, hunter, cook and author Steven Rinella won a lottery permit to kill one of these iconic beasts out in the Alaskan wilderness. The story of his journey into the wild presented in “American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon” is neatly woven with the history of the buffalo, the changing role of the hunter and the politics of food in contemporary American culture.
This book raises some interesting questions. It manages to eulogise about the wonderful graceful magnificence of the north American continent’s most iconic beast, but it attempts to do so in the context of hunting it down and shooting it dead.
I think at it’s heart this book presents an interesting juxtaposition of a very thoughtful and literary treatment of a very brutal manly activity.
Is ennobling the act of hunting a good thing? Is the preservation of a species warranted if you’re mostly keeping it alive to shoot it for years to come?
Can you be an environmental conservationist who hunts and kills?
Is Rinella a pin-up boy for the NRA & the hunting movement or the latest incarnation of the butch Hemingway-esq aproach to visceral experience and to living life most fully?
In this interview from the end of June 2009 the author Steven Rinella talks to ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live about his latest book, he talks ,amongst other things, about how is it that the Buffalo manages to stand at the same time for both abundance and depletion, for wilderness and the destruction of wilderness in the American psyche. He also touches on the subtle difference between hunting and killing, and admits that his personal ethic of hunting has to some extent been added as a personal justification after-the-fact.
Steve Rinella on LNL - mp3 - 10.4mb - 22mins 42secs
Here is an odd little promotional video in which the author muses again about the iconography of the great beast, and why it might be fine and valid to use it as an advert for pizza (2 mins 58 secs):
Go Buffalo indeed.
“If the Buffalo vanished it would lead to the feminization of America.”
paraphrased Theodore Roosevelt
And another curiously moody video clip from Words & Wine in which (the clearly left handed) Rinella defends himself from the accusation he is a “candy ass” for using a rifle instead of a bow & arrow, and waxes lyric about the Buffalo’s extraordinary ability to withstand epic low temperatures (5 mins 41 secs)http://mattswan.com/books/audio/Words-Wine-Steven-Rinella-American-Buffalo.flv
And lastly here’s our man, looking, it must be said a little worse for wear, very quietly addressing a a live audience for Book TV. The author presents a reading from the book in which he recounts the unique smell of burning Buffalo dung, and some graphic detail of the butchery process – just in case you needed to know (9 mins 58 secs):http://mattswan.com/books/audio/Book-TV-Steven-Rinella-American-Buffalo.flv
There is a bit more information including book review extracts and biographical info at the Steven Rinella website.