Barry Lopez was born in New York State in 1945. He was raised in Southern California and New York City and studied Aeronautical Engineering, English, American culture, Theatre and Journalism. In 1968 he moved to Oregon, where he continues to live now, and began writing essays, short stories and nonfiction full-time.
Preoccupation with nature and culture, indigenous peoples, myths and landscapes runs throughout Lopez’s extensive works. »Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with his Daughter« (1977) is a re-telling of nearly 70 stories about the mythological and dazzling Native American trickster figure, Coyote. In 1978 »Of Wolves and Men« was published. Both a respectful and rigorous scientific report and an insightful cultural portrait, the book helped change the prevalent attitude towards the »predatory wolf«. Lopez’s best known book is »Arctic Dreams« (1986), for which he received the National Book Award. A fine understanding of the diversity of this far northern habitat and a history of its exploration are interwoven with the author’s experiences travelling with anthropologists, archaeologists, and native peoples.
Prolonged, painstaking and inquisitive observation is an important feature of Lopez’s books. A former landscape photographer, the author has travelled to nearly fifty countries, including China, India, and Brazil; trekked in remote parts of Africa and Australia with indigenous people; and made several journeys into the interior of Antarctica. His elegant nonfiction about the places he visits is not only travel journalism, however, his books and essays are succinct, unadorned narratives of wonder and appreciation that arguably define what he has referred to as »a literature of hope«.
Dominant throughout his most recent essays and short stories is a concern for the fate of Western culture. »Resistance« (2004), a work of fiction, tells the story of nine individuals who studied together and later struggled to lead meaningful lives in different parts of the world. When they each receive a threatening letter from an ominous office called »Inland Security«, they learn that their artistic and scholarly activities have been classified as a threat to »democracy«, and they decide to go underground. What can be read as a contemporary parable of the paranoid notions of state-run institutions and their consequences after 9/11, is presented by Lopez as a story of hope and determination by the institution’s targets.
Among the awards that Lopez has received are Guggenheim, Lannan and National Science Foundation fellowships and the John Burroughs, John Hay and Christopher medals. He recently published »Home Ground«, a literary guide to American landscape terms with original contributions by more than forty American poets and prose writers.
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