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The Goshawk (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – October 2, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reprinted, White's 1951 book on falconry details the battle of wills between the author and the hawk he is trying to train.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Sports such as ferreting and falconry show the extent to which people are prepared to risk pain and injury in order to enter the world of other species. The arduous experience of training a falcon to accept a person as a perch forms the character both of the bird and its keeper. The experience has been vividly described by TH White in The Goshawk and no reader of that book can doubt that country sports are as unlike human games as wine is unlike water. They do not satisfy some ordinary need for exercise and diversion, any more than wine quenches thirst. They answer to a deeper yearning and intoxicate us with the scent of other worlds. They open a door into the natural life of species: not the pretend life that is imposed on the domestic pet, but the real life that was ordained by nature. Hence the ritual and hence the joy. These sports are genuine rites of passage, which guide us into the world of other animals and help us to know it from within, as a world of instinct, awe and miracles." --The Observer

“The book chronicles the ambivalent relationship between White, author of The Once and Future King, and the hawk he trained. Their battle of wills ‘gives the book its peculiar charm.’” –The New York Times

"It is comic; it is tragic; it is as primal and original as a great wind…it must be ranked as a masterpiece." –Guy Ramsey, Daily Telegraph (UK)

"A reader who cannot tell a hawk from a handsaw may be swept along by the storm of emotion which blows between the man and his bird, and by the freedom and richness of the romantic treatment of the variations." –Lord Kennet, Sunday Times (UK)

“The arduous experience of training a falcon to accept a person as a perch forms the character both of the bird and its keeper. The experience has been vividly described by TH White in The Goshawk…” –The Guardian (UK)

“What one man discovered about hawks, and himself, when he set out to learn the medieval art of hawking.” –Time Magazine, “Recent and Readable”

A “wonderful, classic account of training a bird of prey.” –The Daily Mail

“It’s a strange, eccentric book about [T. H. White’s] attempt to train his first goshawk. It displays an absolute love for the English countryside that I immediately recognized.” –The Mail on Sunday (UK)

“In his 1996 introduction, Stephen Bodio writes: ‘This is a book about excruciatingly bad falconry. It is the best book on falconry, its feel, its emotions, and its flavor, ever written.’ Those oddly juxtaposed statements are exactly on the mark. A classic.” –The Buffalo News

“This is a nature classic, conceived against the background of the second World War…a warm and instructive story.” –Sunday Times (UK)
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (October 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590172493
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590172490
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mr. White describes his experiences with training a goshawk for falconry. He has no guidance beyond an ancient manuscript and things go horribly awry. An outstanding book, a pleasure to read. Also an example of why current US regulations require a falconry apprenticeship period.
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Thanks are due to New York Review Books for putting back in print this wonderful book. The edition is well produced. A quibble is that Marie Winn who writes the introduction is clearly not familiar with ,or comfortable with ,"field sports". T H White (and many modern writers and followers of fishing,falconry and related actities) would take issue with her distinction between being a natural history lover and a practioner of fishing,shooting,ferreting etc. More seriously, she writes that White "blithely snagged salmon". White fished for salmon and caught them fairly using a fly. He wrote many fine passages about his salmon fishing and the pieces are still found in anthologies of fishing literature. To "snag" a salmon means ,to those who fish ,that he took salmon illegally and unsportingly, by jerking a hook into the body of a salmon.There is no evidence that I have heard of that he would ever have done this.To suggest it does his memory a grave disservice. The introduction by Steve Bodio,himself a falconer, to the 1996 Wilder Places edition of The Goshawk is,to my mind, far better at exploring and explaining the reasons why this is a much loved book.
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As a fan of The Once and Future King as well as falconry, I couldn't wait to start reading this book. It is an absolute gem. White's descriptions are extremely vivid. No one should be daunted by the fact that this book was penned in '51 or that it is about falconry; his story is immensely (and enjoyably) readable.
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By A Customer on January 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book to anyone, even those with no interest at all in falconry. The author is so skilled and talented that I'd say that he could write an entertaining piece about paint drying. Enjoy!!
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I would not have known about T. H. White's memoir of trying to train a goshawk were it not for Helen Macdonald's wonderful analysis in H IS FOR HAWK, her recent account of training her own hawk. White, as he himself admits, does a lot of things wrong: feeding the bird far too much, for example. This horrifies Macdonald, and I expected it to horrify me too. But, because he is unaware of his mistakes at the time, what comes over has no cruelty in it whatsoever; frustration and occasional despair, yes, but otherwise just the very honest account of a lonely man's struggle to bond with this wild creature of the air.

And beautifully written! Which surprised me a little, but I should have realized that the author of THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING (the source for CAMELOT and an inspiration for HARRY POTTER) would have pretty strong chops. But again, the amazing quality of Helen Macdonald's writing -- easily the best I had read all year -- had made me assume that no one could equal her. Wrong again! In fact, I realized that by embracing the comparison with White, Macdonald was writing for her life. "Goshawks were Hamlet, were Ludwig of Bavaria," writes White. "Frantic heritors of frenetic sires, they were in full health more than half insane. When the red rhenish wine of their blood pulsed at full spate through their arteries, when the airy bird bones were gas-filled with little bubbles of unbiddable warm virility, no merely human being could bend them to his will.
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Did you read The Once and Future King way back when and love it dearly? I did. This book is a fascinating glimpse of a brief period in T.H. White's life when he strived to train a male goshawk named Gos. His adventures with Gos are fascinating and real, and heartbreaking at times. Animal lovers beware: Despite that White could be quite sentimental about animals, and seemed to love and appreciate them on many levels, he is the type of animal lover who could still hunt with a clear conscience. Keeping this in mind, the work nonetheless contains great beauty, and expresses White's great passion for nature. Recommended.
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An interesting artifact. It's really a day-book of White's first experience of falconry, which the author didn't want published, but was persuaded to many years later. As a diary, when things are going well, or at least aspirational, the writing is wonderful, deeply personal, but when things go bad - or simply dull, the writing sputters out to smelly smoke. I imagine the man's writerly ego lost inspiration with his hawking failures.
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The goshawk is such a peculiar book, written so far removed from a sense of what might be popular, or topical, from a sense of a book as something to be marketed in a business sense, as to be utter magic, a conviction on the part of the author that a book about the relationship between a man and a raptor, a goshawk tiercel ( we learn among many other things, this is what the name of a raptor is called) is compelling in its own right. The book never sold well, made White, living at the writing of this book, hand to mouth, almost no money at all, and wasn't published for fourteen years, and even then at the insistence of a friend who discovered the manuscript by accident. White would go on to make a fortune on a subsequent book, The Sword in the Stone, which draws from this book. White knew nothing about falconry, decided on learning about it from books, some of them ancient, and without instructions from contemporary austringers (sorry), with possibly the most difficult bird in the aviary. We learn much about falconry, and more inadvertently about the brilliant, tortured recluse who was T.H.White
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