|Stills from the film
'Etiquette of the Freedom' is a film by John J. Healey about Gary Snyder. The main footage consists of Jim Harrison informally interviewing Gary Snyder, but there is also archival footage and various talking heads explaining the man. The film led to a book published by Counterpoint (2010) that contains the edited transcripts as well as a DVD of the film. I had high hopes, but it was a total bore.
That writes best that writes less. There are many writers half his age who have written at least twice as many words. While he could easily have made a living as an elderly statesman of the Beat he instead labours nine months of the year on his self-sustaining homestead in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The remaining three months are dedicated to writing, travelling and being famous. Because so much of his work is extra-literary, and because so much of his work comes at the end of a long period of thinking, accompanying volumes like 'The real work, interviews and talks, 1964-1979' fill in a lot of details that are helpful to better understand his barer central publications. I was hoping that 'Etiquette of Freedom' would be such a companion book to Snyder's landmark 'Practise of the wild'. But alas: Snyder may not play the part of the beat legendary who survived, the rest of the world insists that he does.
Snyder is the intellectual of the beats, but nobody ever seemed to dare ask him a serious question. Come on, surely the man can handle a critical question. It would do him (and us) some good to be pressed into a clearer expose of his views. Instead we get the same old stories again and again, no statement Snyder makes is challenged (and he can be controversial), every story he tells is tremendously funny (but as a Snyder-aficionado I have heard them a dozen times before). Sigh.