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Essays from Dry Places

by Craig Childs




Writer and adventurer Craig Childs dwells upon desert icons—human, animal, and otherwise—in these contemplative and visceral essays.

From the author of The Secret Knowledge of Water and Atlas of a Lost World comes a deeply felt essay collection focusing upon a vivid series of desert icons—a sheet of virga over Monument Valley, white seashells in dry desert sand, boulders impossibly balanced. Craig Childs delves into the primacy of the land and the profound nature of the more-than-human.

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CRAIG CHILDS has published more than a dozen critically acclaimed books, including his most recent, Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America. He is a contributing editor at Adventure Journal Quarterly and his work has appeared in the Atlantic, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. He lives in southwest Colorado.

Author Website

October 2019 | Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-18-8 | 120 pp 

Cover art by Claire Taylor

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“Few writers can better express the strange vitality of desert landscapes than Childs, as this brief but memorable trek through the American Southwest proves. Childs makes surprising, even paradoxical, observations throughout. The Southwestern panorama unfolding over the course of this beautiful book will stay with readers long after they close the pages.”
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review

“Craig Childs is full of rawness and spark, just like the dry southwestern deserts he loves . . . Virga & Bone is about those places and the people who need them, abuse them, love them, and take them for granted.”


“A meditation on the beauty and value of the untouched corners of the Southwest.”


“It’s impossible to imagine another writer in America who is better than Craig Childs at elegizing the fearsome and confounding appeal of our most austere landscapes.”
KEVIN FEDARKO, author of The Emerald Mile

“Edward Abbey may have lived in the desert but Craig Childs is of the desert. It's like he was born out of pink sandstone, given a mouth to speak and has continued to defend his mother ever since. Virga & Bone  is no exception. You'll read it in one night but you'll reflect on it for a lifetime."
ANNE HOLMAN, The King's English Bookshop

“A man moves through deserts. He goes slow. And wild. He senses, absorbs—and writes. As always, Craig Childs takes us not only through the external landscapes of the huge and wondrous; he takes us into and through himself.”
MARY SOJOURNER, author of The Talker and 29

“I came to Virga & Bone for its beauty. I stayed for the songlines Childs spins among springs, badlands, ephemeral seas, and desert people ‘present only for scale.’ He goes deep into dry lands, digs into their desolation, finds water—or the memory of it—and lays bare a wealth of hard-won gifts. An arid, haunting feast.”

REBECCA LAWTON, author of The Oasis This Time

“What gives life and what remains after death are clearly legible in the arid lands of the desert Southwest. Craig Childs knows how to read the beauties and the grotesqueries of this landscape . . . Informed by science, indigenous legend, and many nights spent in a sleeping bag tossed down on wild ground, Childs’ explorations are a tall drink of water in troubled times."
ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING, author of Zoologies: On Animals & the Human Spirit

“A desert koan, Child's latest is still and restive, full of unresolved pairings and brilliantly so. His 1,000-watt prose is as alive as the heat that makes the Mojave tick.”

ELIZABETH RUSH, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore

“Tapping into the spring that informed his acclaimed The Secret Knowledge of Water, Childs lets flow another volume of desert tales. Virga & Bone is a tribute to the orphaned landscape of the borderlands, where a bullet-riddled washing machine, an ancient potsherd, or the abandoned possessions of immigrants trekking north are the historical markers.”

GREG CHILD, author of Over the Edge

“In the actual Southwest, blemishes count as much as beauty. Character abides in both, which is how Craig Childs sees it. And to see the desert through his eyes, as Virga & Bone allows us to do, is to glimpse its tangible, imperfect glory. This is a bright hard gem of a book.”

WILLIAM DEBUYS, author of A Great Aridness and The Last Unicorn


“Reading Virga & Bone, I happily felt hot, dry wind coursing through my hair, desert dirt lighting in my skin pores, and the smell of campfire smoke permeating my eyebrows. Craig Childs is a master of bringing the outside inward.”

M. JOHN FAYHEE, ex-editor of the Mountain Gazette and author of
Smoke Signals and Bottoms Up

"Sumptuous and vivid in every instance. Childs writes with enviable concision and richness of depth in these miniature essays."


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