Books by Paul Shepard

Released: Nov. 26, 1996

If you want to cure the many ills afflicting our species, take your cues from our ancestors in the Pleistocene. That's the counsel Shepard (Thinking Animals, 1978, etc.) offers in these provocative if esoteric essays. Shepard was long a stalwart in the field of human ecology; indeed, he pretty much defined that field and influenced its offspring, ecophilosophy and deep ecology. Here is a gallimaufry of his writings, ``iotas of debris,'' as Shepard humbly refers to them, from journals obscure and rarefied, concerning the corruption of the human animal. For Shepard, our society is no longer sane, due to our warped relationship with the natural world. We are, in our hearts and genes, hunters and gatherers, Ice Age primates hot-wired for the wild. As we have tried to slough off this life, pathetically domesticating ourselves, we have jettisoned what was subtle, complex, and unique in our ancestors. Shepard argues against every facet of our present existence, from the way in which we raise our children to our inability to bond with wild creatures, from our postured distaste for hunting to our lack of wonder. He bumps into all sorts of figures as he goes his garrulous way— Martin Heidegger, Edith Cobb, Ortega y Gasset—and can spin a delightful tale, as in his wonderful inventory of the iconography of the bear. And though one might rightly gibe Shepard for moments of abstruseness (it is hard to imagine our ancestors in the Pleistocene jawing about the ``adolescent cosmosizing process''), one of the highlights of this collection is its distillation of Shepard's often highly recondite books. He suffers no fools: If you can't get ontological, don't bother to apply. Radical, indelicate, opinionated, and dauntingly learned even at their most outlandish, Shepard's ideas on humanity's true place in the environment are well worth mulling over. Read full book review >