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Sick of Nature New Ed Edition
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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.Read more ›
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.