David Rains Wallace was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1945 and grew up in New England. He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. (B.A. 1967) and Mills College in Oakland (M.A. 1974). His first published writing on natural history and conservation appeared in Clear Creek Magazine in 1970. Since then he has published seventeen books, and his work has appeared in many anthologies and periodicals, including The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harpers, Mother Jones, Greenpeace, Sierra, Wilderness, Country Journal, and Backpacker. Wallace received the 1984 John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing […]
David Rains Wallace is the author of seventeen books, including Chuckwalla Land: The Riddle of California’s Desert (click here for our review), Neptune’s Ark: From Ichthyosaurs to Orcas; Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution, and The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution. His work has earned him two California Book Awards, as well a John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing.
In its Winter 1985 issue ZYZZYVA published an excerpt from Wallace’s work-in-progress — his examination of the unique ecosystem of a state park just north of Daytona, Florida, called Bulow Hammock. The book, Bulow Hammock, eventually would be published by Sierra Club Books. In this piece, Wallace thinks back to when he was a nine-year-old boy and first visited these woods, which are so different from those he knew in New England. “The hammock was … seductive,” he writes. “It smelled sweet, a perfumy sweetness that reminded me of the hotel lobbies and cocktail lounges I’d occasionally been in with my parents.”
David Rains Wallace admits that for years he never really noticed California’s dry, empty spaces. It wasn’t until 1983, when writing about a Central Valley riparian woodland on the Kern River, that his attitude shifted from indifference to curiosity. Prior to that, whenever the award-winning nature writer found himself crossing California’s deserts he dismissed what he saw as an enormous vacant lot rather than a living landscape. In Chuckwalla Land: The Riddle of the California Desert (280 pages; UC Press), he explains this transformation. Wallace’s revamped attitude toward the desert and its denizens took shape during a serendipitous side trip […]