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Ill Nature Paperback – June 11, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Paperback, June 11, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best known as a novelist, but also an accomplished journalist, Joy Williams has a great gift for inducing guilt trips. No one is safe: in the opening pages of Ill Nature, she implicates every First Worlder in creation for causing the death of the natural world, the victim of our material urges. She writes that the thousands of new digital television towers being erected today, for example, are responsible for the deaths of millions of songbirds that unwittingly slam into them or their guylines in midflight; by extension, anyone who owns a digital TV set is partly to blame for this unforeseen episode in the larger ecological crisis, no matter how well-intentioned those viewers may be.

Turning a sharp eye on ecotourists, zoogoers, hunters, politicians, developers, expectant mothers, carnivores, conservatives, liberals, and just about anyone else who crosses her path, Williams decries the rapid loss of the wild, which in her eyes is no mere abstraction. Sometimes hyperbolic, but more often right on target, she argues that it will take more than a few cosmetic fixes to mend all the wounds that the environment has sustained. Dystopian to the last (as she writes, "You are increasingly looking at and living in proxy environments created by substitution and simulation," and not the real world at all), Williams brings plenty of heat to the page--and plenty of light, too. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Sharp, sarcastic and uncompromising, Williams tackles a host of controversial subjects in this collection of 19 impassioned essays dealing mostly with humans' abuses of the natural world. Two of the collection's strongest essays deal with animal rights: "The Killing Game," an antihunting essay first published, to great furor, in Esquire, and "The Animal People," which casts a harsh eye on the agricultural, medical and environmental establishments for their treatment of animals. Other pieces note the diminished state of African wildlife ("Safariland"), the increasing number of babies born in the United States despite the threat of overpopulation ("The Case Against Babies") and the impact of consumer culture on the natural world ("Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp"). An acclaimed novelist (The Quick and the Dead) and Guggenheim fellow, Williams writes that her essays, unlike her stories, are "meant to annoy and trouble and polarize"; she terms her own nonfiction style "unelusive and strident and brashly one-sided." Readers will likely find all this true. At times, the collection falters under the weight of Williams's anger and moral indignation, and a few essays that are only loosely nature-related ("Sharks and Suicide," "The Electric Chair" and "Why I Write") undermine its momentum. However, her forceful writing and vivid depictions of habitat destruction and animal abuse ("Neverglades," "Wildebeest") make for compelling reading. Williams believes that the "ecological crisis" facing us is essentially a "moral issue," one caused by "culture and character, and a deep change in personal consciousness is needed." While it is unlikely that her combative rants will win new converts, some environmentalists may find this book a powerful call to action.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713638
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713637
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,166,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Death and suffering are a big part of writing. A big part. (To paraphrase and turn upon the gifted Joy Williams; see page 49.) And you can't waste satire or pure hardcore ridicule on targets unworthy of the name. You've got to go after the people who kill animals, and you can't spare anybody. Sure it's duck soup to take aim at the National Rifle Association and the few Big Game Machos left in the world. Duck soup. And the sickie scientists who lobotomize chimps and torture rabbits just to see how long they can take it, their white coats starched and pressed, their nimble fingers taking copious notes. These targets are too easy. In the final analysis you gotta get the burger eaters, every one of them, not just the Super-Sized that waddle into the Burger King or the suburban Mommas sneaking out of the Krispy Kreme, bags of donuts like warm puppies under both arms, mouths stuffed. No, you've got to get the photo safari people who kill merely with their privileged, ignorant, dilettante PRESENCE in jungleland, a lily-livered affront to nature, over-tipping the guides and spilling martinis and overexposed film onto the purity of the veldt.
At any rate, this is the Joy Williams rant, and what I say is rant on, Voltaire!
This collection of magazine essays begins with "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp" in which Williams goes after the wishy-washy, faux lovers of nature, addressing them (in effect) as hey "you" with the "Big Gulp cups." Next is a short-short about rhesus monkeys being raised for laboratory research on an island charmingly called "Key Lois" (Laboratory Observing Island Simians). Williams follows this with "Safariland" in which she makes fun of the photo safari experience, reducing it to a kind of Disneyland with mosquito netting.
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Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting for someone to speak my mind about the abuse of nature, the lip service of politicians regarding the environment, development run amok and other issues that seem beyond our control; Joy Williams does this with gusto, and one senses, a deeply passionate anger. "The Killing Game" especially runs true as I live in hunting country and hear the heart-sickening comments of hunters who can barely name a handful of the flora and fauna that surrounds them on their killing expeditions. "Wildebeest" is a poignant and sad tribute to that wonderful animal driven to survive and "The Case Against Babies" reminds us just out of control the human population is. You don't have to be a "liberal tree hugger" or nature mysticist to appreciate these essays: Ms. Williams speaks as a realist and she hits hard where it should hurt, which is to make us see our hypocritical ways. This is a fast-paced read and enjoyably sarcastic but beneath that lies a plea to speak out against man's selfish, selfish existence. She is also a fine writer. I will eagerly await her next book and hope more writers like her emerge into mainstream publishing.
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Format: Hardcover
Joy Williams takes a clear-eyed look at the greedy, short-sighted and uncompassionate ways of humans, particularly the gluttonous, over-consuming American horde, and what small-brained humanoids have done to the natural world and the creatures who share this water planet.
The truth may set you free, but first it will make you miserable --- if your heart has not been sanitized, plasticized, and chemicalized into stuporous numbness. Williams outlines the enormity of the forces arrayed against those who would preserve some of this beleaguered planet for the plants and animals and natural lifeforms.
With ironical humor, razor wit and passionate uncommon sense, Williams takes aim at industrial agriculture, federal Wildlife Services (which "manages" wildlife by killing it), fertility clinics which allows infertile women to birth litters of babies on this overtaxed planet, hunters and the whole panoply of unbridled growth-is-good ideologues.(Unbridled growth, Edward Abbey wrote, is the ideology of the cancer cell.)
What gourmands call veal and seafood are, in reality, the corpses of slaughtered animals. Williams opens the blinders to reveal the reality behind the modern consumerist lifestyle and while it is not pretty, there is a dark and twisted humor to it.
Williams puts her money where her mouth is. When she had to sell some land she owned in Florida, she insisted, over the bellowing of the realtors, on deed restrictions that would preserve the land's natural character. Eventually, a nature-loving buyer appeared. Good show. I have had similar thoughts about preserving the trees on my little land; thanks to this author for giving me hope that I can protect them. Keep writing, Joy Williams, words can make a difference.
Buy this book, take it to heart, hear the clarion call, get sane, change your life!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always been an ardent admirer of Joy Williams, which is why I was disappointed Ill Nature did not include her articles in their entirety. These essays, originally published in other publications, have been edited down to a (slightly) abbreviated version. I don't understand why the publishers would do this. Why would they think we would be willing to spend money on already published pieces, but not want or expect the entire article? Adding insult to injury, the page indicating that the essays have been shortened is not shown in the preview, which I think is unethical. If you are going to alter what would be the expected product, at least let me know that what I am buying has been altered.
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