From 1981 to 1996 David Quammen delighted readers of OUTSIDE magazine with his thoughtful ruminations on the world around us in his monthly column, NATURAL ACTS. This is a selection of twenty-six of his most durable and engaging essays from that column. The Boilerplate Rhino presents Quammen's distinctive take on topics such as rattlesnake handlers and rattlesnakes, eel mythology and living eels and arachnaphobia and spiders. Each essay is written in the articulate and penetrating style for which Quammen is so renowned. Each touches upon the rich and sometimes horrifically fascinating tension between man and the natural world, in all its complexity and ambivalence. The result is another irrepressible assortment of ideas to explore, conundrums to contemplate, and wondrous creatures to behold. From the acclaimed author of WILD THOUGHTS FROM WILD PLACES and the award winning THE SONG OF THE DODO.
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(214mm x 139mm x 17mm)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
The only downside to this collection of Quammen's (Wild Thoughts from Wild Places, 1997, etc.) natural history essaysand it is a painful oneis the reminder that he no longer writes them on a monthly basis. Here is Quammen doing what he does like no other, knocking about in nature, one eye skinned for the curious organisms through which he explores big questions, the other on the lookout for a suitable opportunity to stick his finger in the eye of our species-specific complacency and self-delusion. Like the cats (Felis sylvestris) he so admires, Quammen walks alone. He is an odd fellow, not self-consciously so, but rather for the fresh and unexpected take he brings to such puzzles as ``what drives the evolution of bizarre forms of penis' and ``does the female sea horse take foolish pride in the size of her thing'? Or why Tyrannosaurus rex ought to be the state bird of Montana. Or why two one-eyed poets are masters of the exigent art of seeing. Or what motivates the plague of defenestrated cats. Through such probings, improbable as it may seem, Quammen raises other grander questionsand infers a direction in which answers may lieabout the ``confusion of good logic and bad logic, earned emotion and specious emotion.' If at times he pursues in his work ``a fascinating scientific question that might lend itself rather well to vulgarization and mockery,' more often he discovers something jarring and demanding: ``a chimpanzee, confronting its own reflected image, is capable of self-recognition. But humans look in a mirror and see only God.' It is a rare and beautiful thing, Quammen's entertaining, challenging, and sustained brilliance. No wonder he needed a break from the monthly grind; it must have been like giving blood one too many times. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - David Quammen
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