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Dreambirds: The Strange History of the Ostrich in Fashion, Food, and Fortune Paperback – March 1, 2001


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Dreambirds: The Strange History of the Ostrich in Fashion, Food, and Fortune + The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World + The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; First Edition edition (March 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312270127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312270124
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,561,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
You don't need to know much more than the biological name of the common ostrich to know that this is a weird bird. Sparrow camel!, what is that? Obviously the ornithologists who discovered the bird were confused about it; as confused, perhaps as the ostrich sometimes looks with it's blank, non-blinking stare. Have you ever seen one up close? The term 'bird brain' is appropriate.
This is all rather unkind, and in fact, unfair to the ostrich. A bird rumored to be so dumb that it supposedly sticks it's head into the sand when threatened; actually we are the dummies if we believe this bit of folklore - it's a myth. The ostrich is in fact remarkably well adapted to it's environment - the savannas of Eastern and Southern Africa, and has had a close association with man for the better part of a century, providing us with food and making fortunes for us.
It is this relationship between man and ostrich that Mr Nixon explores in DREAMBIRDS, specifically his remembrances of the bird from his childhood in South Africa. A town called Oudtshoorn, near where he grew up, was, before WWI, the capital of the worldwide ostrich feather industry. In its heyday it supplied 100,000 tons of plumes to the fashion centers of Europe. The town was then known as the Jerusalem of Africa - a consequence of the large resident community of jewish feather merchants.
That's about all the history there is though. The book is a more a biography, and the ostrich is the common theme, the link between Nixons early youth in South Africa and his adult life in his adopted home - the US. We run into the bird at the ostrich races in Chandler, Arizona and again at various ranches throughout the Southwest. It's not only places, but people that are mentioned. There are some interesting characters involved in the ostrich business.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Meredith A. Ferguson on March 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is wonderful. It took me to places and times I never would have thought of to go. From Ladysmith (I knew Ladysmith Black Mombasa) to Austrilia. The life and times of things I knew nothing about. What a trip. Well worth reading if your interested in learning.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By CeceliaBird on April 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An unusual combination of science, history, and memoir built around ostrich farming, primarily in South Africa. This may not sound like an exciting topic on its face, but Nixon's book is a model of how to write creative non-fiction.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Though well written, this is NOT a history of the ostrich, but rather an autobiography of a man who grew up within view of the ostrich industry in his native South Africa, and then was able to run across them and write about them later in life.
There is really nothing new in this book with regards to the history of the ostrich, and the author indeed had nothing to do with the industry at all - at any point in his life.
If you are buying this book for insights into the history of this magnificent bird in food, fashion and fortune, then you will be disappointed to be sure.
Nice story of Nixon's life, well written, and only occasionally pedantic; however a history of the ostrich this is not.
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