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Into the Porcupine Cave and Other Odysseys Hardcover – April 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beautiful Swimmers, which focused on life around the Chesapeake Bay, now recounts his own nature-centered adventures around the globe, from New England to Tierra del Fuego to the jungles of Guatemala. In the opening essay, Warner describes his youthful escapade in a New England cave, where he and a friend tracked and awakened a group of about a dozen sleeping porcupines; Warner captured two of them barehanded. Next comes his account of how, during his college years, he participated in a dinosaur dig in Utah. Warner moves on to describe a birdwatching tour in the Dry Tortugas where he watched the watchers, a solo camping trip in the Maine woods at the height of the black fly season, and his encounter with a giant barracuda in the South Pacific. Whether his topic is howler monkeys, killer whales or old lighthouses, the author, a polished writer and perceptive observer of nature (including human), invariably informs and entertains.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Elegant, low-profile, life-shaping events in the outdoors, from naturalist Warner. Collected here in ten essays are just the type of experiences that in their undramatic way quietly become the stuff of memory. For Warner, these indelible episodes took place in nature, and the why of this is explained in a moving introductory piece on his first forays into the wild under the tutelage of his irascible step-grandfather, who served in lieu of a father. The incidents cum adventures include digging for fossils in central Utah with a friend and a professor from Princeton in 1941 (said friend then shipping out after Pearl Harbor and dying in the Pacific), and hearing the thunderous slap of orcas flukes reverberate through the Patagonian hills (``I wanted to explore la tiera mas austral del mundo . . . I would do this entirely on my own, using only public transportation wherever such existed'') again in the early 1940s. During the same war that killed his friend, he first viewed a coral reef community through a pair of Hawaiian spear-fishing goggles made of wood and glass and an inner tube, and began asking all the right questions: Why all the color? Why all the variety? Why does this phenomenon touch me so? Some of the locales are impossibly remote or just plain difficult to get toEllesmere Island, the Virginia barrier islandswhile other places ensnare him in their force field, such as the Dry Tortugas, where amid the noddies and frigates and boobies of every persuasion a merlin dives and plucks a warbler from the air within inches of his ear. Such breadth of subject matter is no problem for Warner, who has a natural storyteller's talent for enthralling readers on any topic he chooses. Some 20 years ago, Warner won a deserved Pulitzer for his transcendent book Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay. These essays have an equal understated beauty and display the same seasoned understanding of the natural world. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; First Edition edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792274555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792274551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,118,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By on June 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
William Warner made his mark with "Beautiful Swimmers," a classic about the unlikely subject of crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. Now in this collection of essays, he looks back on a life of adventures and encounters with nature. He tells of boyhood meetings with porcupine, eye contact with a killer whale, jungle episodes with howler monkeys, treks in artic deserts... There's keen observation, digestible science,and plenty of humor in these short essays. A perfect book to take with you on a summer vacation, or give to all your friends at Christmas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed the account of Warner's adventures. His humorous stories, often poking fun at himself, pull the reader in. I found myself wishing I was exploring with him and his companions from the hot, dry desert to the Pacific islands. Warner ends each chapter with educational information that is often too long or overdone. I confess that I skipped over some of that in the second half of the book. I was disappointed at the end when Warner explained some of the adventures were not altogether accurate (eg. a fellow student is a "composite" ) and he relied on the memories of others in some cases where he couldn't remember. I guess that's just what old age does to all of us. Nevertheless, I HIGHLY recommend the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Warner has written a charming book based on some remarkable experiences he has had over his long life. His prose is crisp and straightforward and shows his clear grasp of the language. Each essay holds the reader's attention firmly, and there is always a deeper meaning. While it is a very thoughtful book, it is not without touches of dry but sparkling humor. A perfect gift for anyone who loves the natural world.
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By Owl on September 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Sometimes there would be schools of marauding bluefish just beyond the surf, marked by sprays of small fish breaking the surface and the screams of wheeling gulls and terns. In such an event, I would jam on the brakes...get out my cane surf rod, and heave out a heavy lead squid lure as far as possible....For a boy of 16 these were moments of pure bliss, of feeling at one with the sea and the sand." (p.7)

The boy we meet in these first pages of "Into the Porcupine Cave and Other Odysseys," survived a difficult youth, Princeton, World War II, and years with the foreign service, eventually becoming an Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. His book about the Chesapeake Bay, its blue crabs, and the men who fished for them, "Beautiful Swimmers," is an enduring best-seller.

These nine essays come from the close of William Warner's long life, recalling adventures that were almost as far-travelled as those of Odysseus. Some are daft; some are suffused with a wild beauty. All are written with self-deprecating humor, an affection for his fellows, and almost always, the presence of fish and birds.

One of his dafter adventures began as a scientific inquiry about how porcupines m*ke l*ve. William and a friend conspire to build a cage hidden deep in the basement of his boarding school, find a porcupine cave, capture a pair of hibernating porcupines, and learn. The 'pines wake up, quills rustling ominously, within the crawl-on-your-belly cave. Improbably, the pair actually wrangle a two irate porcupines into heavy bags and smuggle them to the school basement. What happened next--vividly recalled-- was not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. But interesting, oh yes!
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