An Inside Passage


An Inside Passage

Kurt Caswell

River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize Series

152 pages


May 2009


$18.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

May 2009


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Although finding a way to feel at home in the world is ultimately the life’s work of us all, rarely has the search ranged as far or found as precise and moving an expression as it does in An Inside Passage. Winner of the 2008 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, Kurt Caswell’s narrative chronicles his travels in the rugged mountain forests of Japan’s Shiretoko National Park, on a vision quest in Death Valley, and to the sacred waters of the Ganges River. Whether contemplating a great blue heron as it rests riverside at the onset of a storm, reflecting on a beloved student’s untimely death, walking through the Navajo reservation, or receiving the blessing of a Hindu priest, Caswell unerringly finds the moment of truth. His journey also takes us across the landscape of his marriage, both its initial sweetness and its eventual failure. The ensuing inner dislocation echoes a larger estrangement that makes more poignant Caswell’s quest to find a place he can call home.

Author Bio

Kurt Caswell is an assistant professor of creative writing and literature in the Honors College at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. His essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Isotope, Ninth Letter, Northern Lights, Potomac Review, and Matter.


“The author moves from place to place, examining the natural world around him with scrupulous care and a keen, sympathetic eye, and examining even more intensely the seasonal transformations in his own heart and mind. By the end, I felt I had traveled along with him, sharing his sorrows and his epiphanies, his vigor and courage and ceaseless quest for experience and understanding. This is a memoir of extraordinary revelation, which transforms the reader as well as the author.”—Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books

“Kurt Caswell has mastered the noble tradition of the essay as walk-around, and he reads the contours of the land, his mind, and the urgency of companions who sometimes choose to accompany him on his solo journey with delicacy, generosity and a sharp attentiveness to the possibility of new life, in all its harmonious contradictions. This is lovely writing and musing.”—Phillip Lopate, author of The Art of the Personal Essay and Totally, Tenderly, Tragically

"In these luminous essays on wanderlust, Caswell . . . embraces travel writer Bruce Chatwin's contention that walking is a poetic act that can cure the world of its ills. . . . His travels culminate in a Death Valley vision that replaces his pervasive sense of dislocation with the answer to a question that has nagged him for years: what is home? "—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"[Kurt Caswell's] writing brings every sense to bear, and days later you will still have an exotic smell lingering in your nostrils."—Craig Childs, Orion

"An Inside Passage celebrates the best of ecopsychology in contemporary American nature writing. It explores the complex interrelationship between the trajectory of our lives and the places in which we live them."—Gioia Woods, ISLE

Table of Contents

California Rental
Five Country Walks
The Way to Coss Creek
Letter to a Young Girl at Summer's End
A Horse Builds a Woman in a Storm (a Dream)
A Matter for Heron
The Rescue
Banaue Tercet
Instructions at the Headwaters
The Best Thing about Marriage is Divorce
Wild Man at Iouzan
Mountains Belong to People Who Love Them
Hunger at the Mountain
An Inside Passage


Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize
Texas Tech University President's Book Award (second place)

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