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Throwim' Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds Paperback – March, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Throwim Way Leg, Australia-based mammologist-raconteur Tim Flannery recalls scientific expeditions in the wilds of New Guinea that convey both the thrill of discovery and the negotiations necessary to bridge huge clashes of cultures. A world expert on New Guinea's fauna, Flannery has discovered 20 new species during his two decades of research. Yet his ability to convey unalloyed adventure in his taletelling makes these scientific expeditions read more like hair-raising, funky Redmond O'Hanlon-style travels than disciplined, scholarly field trips. Energy and danger run high.

Terrific thunderstorms and aircraft mishaps rattle Flannery during his travels. Yet the most memorable quality of Throwim Way Leg is Flannery's incorporation of humans into the natural world he writes about, often contrasting the jungled New Guinea denizens with stark modern technologies. He writes rich profiles of those he has met, and his images are memorable and meaningful: crowds of people gaping at a single television set; the remote landscape of Mt. Albert Edward dotted with cattle, Swiss chalets, and the smoky fires of the Goilala people; the malnourished Yapsiei greeting him reeking of the "sweet, sickly smell" of grile, a form of ringworm.

Ultimately, Flannery looks ahead and sees that the age of discovery is not at all complete in New Guinea, as so much remains unknown. But, in an often-told tale, modern political forces are at work, reshaping those unique natural and cultural environments that Throwim Way Leg explores with such vigor. --Byron Ricks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This energetic fusion of natural science and anthropology caused the Times Literary Supplement to declare that in Flannery "Australia has found its own Stephen Jay Gould." Indeed, Flannery's book is, like Gould's work, erudite and informing. But Flannery (The Future Eaters, 1994), an Australian biologist who specializes in mammalogy, gives us a much more personal take in this memoir of his scientific and cross-cultural adventures during 15 expeditions to New Guinea?undertaken in order to research the many species of mammals that exist on this large island, which he refers to as "one of the world's last frontiers." His accounts of crossing the rugged island terrain and enduring onslaughts from snakes, bees, flies and mosquitoes are vivid yet understated. During his explorations, Flannery documented many new species of mammals and discovered the presence of a bat that had previously been considered extinct. The best parts of the book are those in which Flannery tells of his forays into remote villages. His descriptions of the indigenous peoples he met and worked with are sympathetic and often very funny (with the humor frequently at his own expense), particularly the tales of the cannibals of Yominbip and Betavip. Flannery accepted funding from the Indonesian PT Freeport mining company, which operates in Irian Jaya, but that doesn't stop him from voicing his concern that the presence of Freeport has led to civil unrest, violence, racial tensions and environmental havoc. The title comes from New Guinea Pidgin; referring to a first step, it means "to go on a journey." Readers would do well to follow Flannery on this one.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (March 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136657
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on June 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If Tim Flannery isn't the luckiest biologist in the world, then perhaps he's the hardest working. He possesses a spirit of adventure that may exceed both. His twenty years of exploring the mysteries of New Guinea are superbly outlined and related in this engaging account. Although a mammalogist by profession, his interests range far beyond any academic discipline. We follow his efforts to meet and gain acceptance by the remote peoples of the New Guinea highlands. They are a diverse lot, and every new contact is fraught with uncertainty. He introduces us to the teasing pleasures of New Guinea pidgin, a language adopted by indigineous peoples to cross the nearly 1 000 languages that exist on the island.
Throwim' Away Leg, New Guinean pidgin for a journey, is an appropriate title for this book. Flannery's 15 long-term expeditions took him over most of the island, meeting the people, tracking animals and assessing the changes in the ecology. It is difficult, in this jet travel age to comprehend the impact of "remote people," but Flannery has done it. He's adept at sharing the wonder he felt in his travels. We feel his fears, his joys of discovery, his sadness at the incursion of industrial civilization in an unprepared land. Flannery's account is given with an astonishing detachment. He recognizes the needs of both the indigenous people and the invaders. Cannibalism, so abhorrent to "civilized" readers, is placed in its true framework as viewed by the New Guinean mountain peoples. He's aware of the population pressures on local resources among the tribes, not excusing, but imparting rare understanding of the reality of life in wilderness.
The author's love of wildlife is made clear throughout the book.
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book! In it, mammalogist Tim Flannery regales us with tales from his many years in New Guinea, searching for new species of mammals on the island, the second largest in the world. A difficult island to work in - highly mountainous; extremely few roads, most villages so isolated that they can only be reached by small planes flying to landing strips hacked out of the jungle; parts of it some of the rainiest spots on earth, some areas receiving 11 meters or more of rain a year; possessing many dangerous animals ranging from crocodiles to snakes to huge spiders; tropical diseases and parasites a real problem in many areas (including malaria and scrub typhus, from which Flannery almost died from when bit by an infected tick) � Flannery had his work cut out for them as he spent over two decades on the island, both in the eastern half, the independent nation of Papua New Guinea, and the western section, Irian Jaya, part of Indonesia.
Flannery is a highly accomplished scientist, having discovered 16 new species of mammals in Melanesia, many of them in New Guinea. Many of these and others are described in the book, and make for fascinating reading. We meet the Black-tailed Giant-rat, the bite from its two centimeter long razor sharp incisors much feared by the inhabitants of the island. The Three-striped Dasyure, a vividly marked rat-sized marsupial predator, one of New Guinea's few mammals active during daylight hours. The Snow Mountains Robin, one of the rarest birds in the world, found in the high alpine regions of the Meren Glacier in Irian Jaya, one of the very few equatorial glaciers in the world. _Antechinus, a small carnivorous marsupial notable in that the male only lives for 11 months, existing only to breed.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating look at the mammals (most poignantly,humans) in the forests and caves of New Guinea. Flannery takes usalong on 15 years of searching for both living and fossil traces of everything from tree kangaroos to bats. But the compelling feature of the book is his contact with the isolated villagers, whose ways are as interesting--and imperilled--as the rarer wildlife that Flannery seeks. New Guinea is near the equator, but its highest peaks are in the 14,000 to 16,000 foot range. It is rugged. The island is filled with caves, dense life-filled forests, swamps, and a daunting array of diseases and pests. Peter Matthiessen took us there years ago in his Under the Mountain Wall. Some old ways prevail, but the gun, roads, mines, politics, and exposure to western ways are taking their toll on both man and wildlife. Flannery has a self-depricating manner that reminds of the Canadian naturalist-author Farley Mowat. What next? you think as you read from low-key adventure to low-key adventure. Along the way he teaches you too about those tree kangaroos, rats, bats, bandicoots, wallabies, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
As one who has traveled in New Guinea 8 times, I found this book suspenseful and fascinating. Flannery vividly portrays the magnificent landscapes he explored, and introduces us to wild creatures that are disappearing from the earth. And he captures well the tragic impact of an outside world greedy for the island's natural resources, especially in Irian Jaya.
I have only two reservations. First, even recognizing that Flannery's mission was to collect rare mammals, I thought he conveyed too little of the richness and complexity of tribal life. The savage nature of the people was stressed, rather than their loyalties and kindnesses. Second, women were virtually invisible in the narrative.
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