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Sick of Nature Paperback – July 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1584654643 ISBN-10: 1584654643 Edition: New Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Dartmouth; New Ed edition (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584654643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584654643
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Comical, energetic, and reverentially irreverent . . . Gessner's literary voice in this book is something new, something different . . . In particular, he argues for - and then gleefully demonstrates—the enlivening contribution of farce and other modes of narrative in the field of nature writing . . . More like a gulp of laughing gas than the standard breath of fresh air."—Orion Magazine

"The book reads like a novel and reaches a satisfying conclusion as Gessner matures from a wild adolescent to a seasoned professor. His humor, irreverence, raw honesty, and passion make him reminiscent of Edward Abbey, and, like that writer, he leaves you with plenty to ponder. Highly recommended"—Library Journal

“Here is an environmental read with irreverent laughter and attentive awe both.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Eschewing expectations turns out to be one of Gessner's favorite pastimes, as he exuberantly demonstrates throughout Sick of Nature . . . Anyone who can capture in words the quiet joy of rocking an infant as well as the boldness of an osprey's plunge to the sea is a unique voice, well worth reading even if you're not the least bit sick of birds and trees."—Audubon Naturalist News


"As self-conscious as Eggers, but deeper. As funny as Sedaris, but smarter. Our best writer of creative nonfiction period." (Mark Spitzer, author of Bottom Feeder)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anna Mills on March 27, 2007
Bravo to David Gessner for thumbing his nose at the hallowed genre of nature writing! I love the genre, and I believe Gessner does too. Still, I applaud anyone who helps to tip over sacred cows. Gessner expands the possibilities for other nature writers and loosens things up. He structures his book of essays around the tale of a prodigal nature writer. First he rebels against his self-assigned role as wise and straight-laced chronicler of plovers and other small beer (Return of the Osprey, A Wild, Rank Place). Then he strikes out into the territory of the personal essay to explore his relationships and his writing apprenticeship. Finally, he returns to nature writing, reinvigorated and willing to break the rules.

The book opens with a rant so clever, funny, and hyperactive that it dazzled me. I tried in vain to summarize what his complaint against nature writing was. I had to go back over the argument sentence by sentence to catch every insight. Gessner chafes against a sense of restraint, a standard of quiet gentility and decorum.Gessner rolls his eyes at what he sees as a habit of humorless, excessive earnestness. He complains about the narrowness of the genre and its tendency toward repetition. Then he admits that it is his own conformity that embarrasses and frustrates him more than anyone else's expectations.

Gessner is sick not just of nature writing, but of the marginal position of nature writers in society, of the skeptical inquiries about his job, of his own "eccentric costume of an English bird watcher." He worries, too, about the self-indulgence of the lonely philosopher on the shore. Perhaps most of all, Gessner hates the writer's helplessness. He groans at the contrast between his lofty aspirations and his inability to stop the destruction of the wilderness.
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If narrative nonfiction does not interest you, then you can stop reading this and go back to reading Water For Elephants or some such.

If you do, like I do, love reading high-quality, well-crafted narrative nonfiction, then you will love this book. Gessner is nominally a nature writer, but he really covers a lot of bases, which makes him hard to categorize but exceptionally fun to read.

As mentioned in previous reviews, this is a collection of essays and nonfiction, and is definitely not your stodgy, self-important nature writing. I had previously read one of the essays included here, "Bigger Than Shakespeare" which is a funny, entertaining tale of Gessner meeting fellow author Sebastian Junger. My other favorites are "Dungo in the Jungle" (about a trip to Belize), "To the Fatherland" (about his father and a trip they took together to Germany), and of course the title essay. In all the essays, he touches on personal history, nature, symbolism, sociology, politics, all with a touch of humor and a gifted eye for detail.

I am currently finishing the last part of the book, a triptych of essays regarding coyotes in Boston, and I can't put it down.
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