By John Fowles
Ecco, $13.99, 112 pages
John Fowles (1926-2005), primarily known as a stylish writer and the author of beloved classics like such as "The French Lieutenant's Woman," has been somewhat overlooked as a philosopher of the natural world. Perhaps this lovely edition of "The Tree," republished on its 30th anniversary, will bring the book its deserved attention. Drawing upon his experience growing up in suburban and rural England, Fowles explains his Edwardian father's insistence on "well-pruned trees." The younger Fowles, however, came to appreciate the joy of a tangled forest, where one could get lost without a plan. This slender volume, a book-length essay really, is a gentle plea for wilderness, but it is also an argument for art and and the imagination. "I do not plan my fiction any more than I normally plan woodland walks," wrote Fowles. "I follow the path that seems most promising at any given point, not some itinerary decided before entry."