Books by Renny Russell
Finally, we have the gift of Renny Russell’s raw, honest voice once again, after On the Loose shaped and influenced an entire generation. We return to the fluid landscape of the Green River, where Renny’s brother, Terry Russell, drowned. This poignant memoir fills in the gaps, and opens our eyes to grief and love and the profound healing nature of wild country. We see how two brothers found their passion in the heart of the Colorado Plateau as our nation was at war in Vietnam. And we see how the brother who is left behind moves forward in time by honoring history, both personal and geologic, not as a distraction but as a handhold to the continuity of life. Renny Russell has written his way back home. His explorations on the page become an open door to the beauty of one wild heart.
TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, author of REFUGE: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY OF FAMILY AND PLACE, and RED: PASSION AND PATIENCE IN THE DESERT
"Sand spills from these pages as they turn, letting loose tears and droplets of a desert river. The paper is stained with death, illuminated with redemption. Foremost, this is a map of a landscape. With clear and beautiful writing, Russell makes sure there is no separation between the human heart and this fathomless territory. His journey is urgent and timeless, his story raw with emotion. He has done what few people can, truly describing the land in its fullness."
—Craig Childs, author, The Secret Knowledge of Water and The Soul of Nowhere
Most people would not revisit the terrain of heartbreak. The river, however, takes Renny Russell there with the passion of a survivor’s revelation. He returns, forty years after On the Loose “unloosed” us into wild lands and young hearts. We need this book. It is a gift from Russell to his brother, to himself, to us.
ELLEN MELOY, author of THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF TURQUOISE
Driving up the eastern front of the Rockies in springtime, I saw a snow goose in a field of stubble. It was far from water. It had a shattered wing. It was, nevertheless, walking due north. It was probably not far ’til the jaws of a coyote. But I could feel that bird’s yearning. I could picture the tundra in its mind. And the sight of it, migrating that way, would not have been more poignant had it been a broken-winged angel, dragging along a busted harp. Renny Russell’s tale of loss and rivers reminds me of that snow goose.
DAVID JAMES DUNCAN, author of THE BROTHERS K and MY STORY AS TOLD BY WATER
In the ’60s Renny Russell and his brother, Terry, co-authored On the Loose, a paean to wild places that became one of the touchstones of the environmental movement. Four decades later, Renny has written a raw, soul-searching, searingly heartfelt companion volume, Rock Me on the Water. A bittersweet meditation on family and loss and the myriad ways in which unspoiled country can shape a life, this book will resonate with wrenching power for anyone touched by On the Looseor, for that matter, anyone who’s ever gazed with wonder at the wide-open spaces of the American West.
JON KRAKAUER, author of INTO THE WILD, INTO THIN AIR, and UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVENOn the Loose and Rock Me on the Water, Down the River of Remembrance belong together, two halves of two lives finally joined together on the river of their separation. On the Loose was one of the seminal books of the ’60s, and this, its companion, written years later, is a beautifully written follow-up in its perspective and sadness and triumph.
ANN ZWINGER, author of RUN, RIVER, RUN
Rock Me on the Water is not so much a book as an intimate spiritual and political journey. Part memoir, part nature writing, part philosophy, and part political polemic, Rock Me on the Water transcends each of these categories to become a trek through sorrow, pain, beauty, joy, and redemption.
DERRICK JENSEN, author of A LANGUAGE OLDER THAN WORDS, and WELCOME TO THE MACHINE: SCIENCE, SURVEILLANCE, AND THE CULTURE OF CONTROL
"Rock Me On The Water is a courageous narrative that carries considerable emotional impact, intellectual depth and realism. From put-in to take-out on Renny's Green River sojourn, his musings link to "On The Loose" and bring it into focus as what it was, an idealistic, naive and impassioned paean to man's love for nature, a value that is in alarmingly short supply today. Renny has characterized a lifestyle and philosophy that resonates with a growing number of his peers. He has a lot of sympathy among a broad readership."
"... a story of how Terry and Renny came to be the people who, though young, could walk into the home of a man of the stature of David Brower and hand him a manuscript half photos, half calligraphy, half rumination, half pontification that, while in print, sold more than a million copies and imprinted itself in the minds of many people as the seminal book for an entire generation of people looking to leave civilization, even if for only a short period, for forays into the mountains, deserts, canyons and woods. It affected people the same way Desert Solitaire did, though its message was a tad less cantankerous. But it wasn't some superficial nature-twink coffee-table book, where both the text and photos have as much substance as cumulus clouds caught up in the jet-stream. It had moments of didactic acerbicism, but that's not fundamentally what the book was; it's not the main thing that readers brought away from their experience with On The Loose.
It's a book you come away from muttering words to the effect of "Holy Shit! This changes everything from the way the cosmos functions down to what kind of socks I'm going to wear from now on." And it's physical presentation with dozens of Renny's rough-and - ready photos sutured together by Terry's calligraphy is flat out beautiful. It was and is a book you want to touch and hold as much as read.
On The Loose, it turned out, is an era-specific anthem in print form, and, to this day, hundreds of thousands of people consider their dog-eared, oft-read copies to be among their most prized possessions. For many of us, it is nostalgia incarnate. On The Loose was and remains a masterpiece, a creative tour-de-force."
-Mountain Gazette by J. Fayhee
More reviews of on the loose...
"This book is a treasure... golden and important. It is a primer of sorts for living a good and authentic and adventurous life... one of my favorites for so many reasons... to be shared with friends and family." —Peter Rorvig
"My favorite book... This book expresses that deep yearning to wander, to explore, to live fully like no artistic expression I ever came across. If you want your soul to be forever touched with the pure spirit of the natural world and the lust to wander in it, seek out this book. Be warned, you will never be the same again."
WWII Ambulance Driver Ruminates on War and Peace in Image and Verse
ALBUQUERQUE—For more than sixty years, Jock Cobb’s photographs from North Africa and Italy sat in a box, the landscapes and human faces of WWII out of sight but not out of mind. Using the ambulance he drove for the American Field Service as a mobile darkroom, Cobb preserved his experience as a wartime pacifist in the photos and poetry that compose his new book, Fragments of Peace in a World at War (Animist Press).
Cobb’s images capture sublime landscapes of the Syrian-Iraqi desert, bustling Lebanese marketplaces, and decaying Italian architecture. Other images remind viewers of the harsher aspects of war—soldiers in scorching sun, the wounded on stretchers, and casualties who even in death evoke a life spent in duty to country. With a sensitive eye and sparse poetic sensibility, Cobb remarks on both the devastating aspects of war and the way in which every day life persists even among turmoil, all from an insider’s perspective.
Fragments of Peace in a World at War is available from Animist Press. Click here to order.
Jock Cobb devoted his life to public health and preventive medicine following WWII, working for Indian Health Service in New Mexico, the Population Council in Pakistan, and the World Health Organization in Tunisia,