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The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
While Matthiessen is poetic and romantic as a nature writer he is a blunt and critical social commentator. Our species comes in for some stick. We neither stack up well in creation - look at the beauty of an African Crowned crane, the "red-black-and-white head crowned by a spray of elongated feathers on the nape, like spun gold in the bright sun...how wonderful it seems that even the boldest colors of creation are never garish or mismatched, as they are so often in the work of man." Nor do we do so well with what we create - China's Three Gorges Dam will destroy some pristine crane wintering lands and is, according to Matthiessen, "a grand folly of enormous cost." Worse still is that we are such a self destructive species. The dam, he goes on to say, will also cause "social and environmental ruin" in this part of China.Read more ›
Peter Matthiessen travels with George Archibald, from the International Crane Foundation, through Asia revisiting places where cranes were previously abundant. They share the wonder of the many sightings of cranes. Yet Dr. Archibald is quoted as saying,"What a species we are!" after "being astonished anew by the destructive and murderous proclivities of man".
I learned so much from this book and recommend it to those who are not afraid to see the world as it is.
The book is arranged geographically. Beginning in Siberia, Mr. Matthiessen takes through Asia to Australia and then on to Africa and Europe and finally to North America. There are no cranes in South America (or Antarctica).
The author is at his best when he is combining his wry observations of the people and places around him with an enthusiastic and well-informed account of the natural history of a region. I felt that he was less successful when he lets his righteous indignation get the better of him and begins to make snide comments about the absence of a love of the natural world in Chinese society, the wrong-headedness of various bureaucrats and the corruption of local officials.
It is not as if I disagreed with his point of view, but I knew that I already shared it before I even picked up the book. I can't imagine anyone who had any doubts about the importance of cranes as sensitive indicators of the general health of the environment being won over to the crane's side by this hectoring, doctrinaire authorial voice. But then, perhaps this books is really just an extended love letter to the cranes and to the environment in general. As such, it succeeds wonderfully.
He has produced an unforgettably bleak picture of ecological matters in China, and an optimistic account of our own country's efforts in getting whooping cranes started again. That we don't know what we are doing in dealing with the cranes is shown in a paradoxically happy outcome for them in Korea. Wars are, as the posters used to declare, harmful to children and other living things, and the Korean War was disastrous for humans and for cranes. There is now a Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, just a couple of miles wide but running from the Sea of Japan to the Yellow Sea. Human habitation is forbidden in the area, and farming is very limited. Matthiessen is thus able to visit the DMZ's boundary, accompanied by armed soldiers.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Peter Matthiessen has long been one of my favorite authors, both for his brilliant fiction works as well as for his non-fiction. I was so saddened to read of his passing last week. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Matthew Karns
This book is another triumph for Peter Matthiessen. In a class with The Snow Leopard, for which he won the National Book Award. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Ray Zimmerman
I was driving in north Florida looking out over a mile of mud being transformed into a new expressway, to my left I saw four birds in tight formation, 12 feet above the ground, a... Read morePublished on November 23, 2013 by Zoro
I have appreciated Matthiessens's other wild life books & his novels - here, though I haven't finished & there may be a payoff, I find his ecotourism, the discovery of Crane... Read morePublished on October 21, 2012 by John Wander
Schiller's Ibykus said to 'his' cranes: We come from afar and beg for a hospitable roof. He travels 'with' cranes in the same sense as author Peter Matthiessen: we can look for... Read morePublished on July 22, 2009 by H. Schneider
The teaming of two giants in natural history - author Peter Matthiessen and artist Robert Bateman - to cover one of the world's most revered and endangered groups of birds produced... Read morePublished on April 13, 2008 by Sheri
The Birds of Heaven is an unusual mix of natural history, travel, personal reflections, and tough lessons in the realities of international cooperation (or lack thereof) in... Read morePublished on January 9, 2007 by Thomas E. Gaskill
I first read Peter Matthiessen in the 1970s: "The Snow Leopard", and was so moved by his writing that I began to read everything I could find that he authored. Read morePublished on February 8, 2005 by L. Jody Kuchar
_The Birds of Heaven_ by Peter Matthiessen is a well-written and informative account of the fifteen living species of crane. Read morePublished on January 30, 2005 by Tim F. Martin