Desert Notes and River Notes was my introduction to Barry Holstun Lopez. The Raven, an essay from Desert Notes, has received academic and critical notice for its subtle prose. Broadly speaking it is an exploration of the contrast and comparison between Ravens and Crows. I have included a PDF (click below) of the Raven essay. The Raven essay begins, ” I am going to start at the other end by telling you: there are no crows in the desert. What appears to be crows are ravens. You must examine the crow, to understand the raven. To forget the crow completely, as some have tried to do, would be like trying to understand the one who stayed, without talking to the one who left. It is important to make note of the one who left the desert.”
Meet Barry Lopez
Barry Holstun Lopez (January 6, 1945 – December 25, 2020) was an American author, essayist, nature writer, and fiction writer whose work is known for its humanitarian and environmental concerns. In a career spanning over 50 years, he visited over 80 countries, and wrote extensively about distant and exotic landscapes including the Arctic wilderness, exploring the relationship between human cultures and nature. He won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Arctic Dreams (1986) and his Of Wolves and Men (1978) was a National Book Award finalist. He was a contributor to magazines including Harper’s Magazine, National Geographic, and The Paris Review.
Lopez was born Barry Holstun Brennan on January 6, 1945, in Port Chester, New York,[ to Mary Frances (née Holstun) and John Brennan. His family moved to Reseda, California after the birth of his brother, Dennis, in 1948. He attended grade school at Our Lady of Grace during this time. His parents divorced in 1950, after which his mother married Adrian Bernard Lopez, a businessman, in 1955. Adrian Lopez adopted Barry and his brother, and they both took his surname.
When Lopez was 11, his family relocated to Manhattan, where he attended the Loyola School, graduating in 1962. As a young man, Lopez considered becoming a Catholic priest or a Trappist monk before attending the University of Notre Dame, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees there in 1966 and 1968. He also attended New York University and the University of Oregon.