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Description - Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America by Jennifer Price

In five sharply drawn chapters, Flight Maps charts the ways in which Americans have historically made connections,and missed connections,with nature. Beginning with an extraordinary chapter on the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and the accompanying belligerent early view of nature's inexhaustibility, Price then moves on to discuss the Audubon Society's founding campaign in the 1890s against the extravagant use of stuffed birds to decorate women's hats. At the heart of the book is an improbable and extremely witty history of the plastic pink flamingo, perhaps the totem of Artifice and Kitsch,nevertheless a potent symbol through which to plumb our troublesome yet powerful visions of nature. From here the story of the affluent Baby-Boomers begins. Through an examination of the phenomenal success of The Nature Company, TV series such as Northern Exposure and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and the sport-utility vehicle craze, the author ruminates on our very American, very urbanized and suburbanized needs, discontents, and desires for meaningful, yet artificially constructed connections to nature. Witty, at times even whimsical, Flight Maps is also a sophisticated and meditative archaeology of Americans' very real and uneasy desire to make nature meaningful in their lives.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465024865
ISBN-10: 0465024866
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 127mm x 23mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 16-Mar-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Book Reviews - Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America by Jennifer Price

US Kirkus Review » Piquant explorations of attitudes toward the "natural" world as mediated by the likes of Ralph and Martha and Hollywood, from essayist Price. Accept as a given, Price reasonably suggests, that our "most common and everyday encounters with the natural world take place through mass-produced culture." How, then, do lawn ornaments and Northern Exposure and a scad of like vehicles and arbiters shape our perceptions of nature? Price believes they have condemned nature as a Place Apart from our daily life, molded to the needs of those in power: the politicians, the business elite, the purveyors of fashion. Worse still, our alienation from nature makes it that much easier to ignore those times when our dealings with it don't jibe with our professions of concern toward it. This is hardly late-breaking news, Price notes, using as an example the late, lamented passenger pigeon, whose sorry fate a century ago was engineered by market forces: it was much in demand at the restaurant table. Regarding matters of taste in our communions with nature, Price turns to lawn flamingoes (are they any more an artifice than Capability Brown's interventions?) and their evolution from an expression of working-class landscape strategy to symbols of "anything outrageous, rebellious, oxymoronic, inappropriate or transgressive." The last two chapters enter the mare's nest of green stores and green television. The former, epitomized by the Nature Company, erecting a false-front concern for nature as it sustains "the capitalist overconsumption of resources that underpins American middle- and upper-class life." With flair, Price makes her point: For better or worse, from Lascaux to Marry Stouffer, our notions of "nature" are often a self-serving, corrupting social construct that can be used to navigate an avoidance of societal and economic problems rather than highlighting them. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Jennifer Price

Jennifer Price attended Princeton University and received her Ph.D. in History from Yale. Her essays have appeared in the collections Uncommon Ground and The Nature of Nature. She lives in Los Angeles.