A medley of well-crafted essays and short stories highlights one man's lifelong love affair with bird hunting. Jones, a...

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DANCERS IN THE SUNSET SKY: The Musings of a Bird Hunter

A medley of well-crafted essays and short stories highlights one man's lifelong love affair with bird hunting. Jones, a novelist and former Sports Illustrated staffer, writes for hunting magazines like Sports Afield and Gray's Sporting Journal. No surprise, then, that much of his nonfiction reads less like essays than magazine articles. But even the most topical, how-to piece, like ""America's Bird,"" mixes history, ornithology, and autobiography with Jones's turkey hunting dos and don'ts, adding a savory-sounding recipe for roast wild gobbler to boot. ""D-Day In Maryland"" surpasses simple instruction to capture the mythic atmosphere and tradition of wingshooting at a Chesapeake Bay hunting club. So skillfully does it pinpoint the delicious anticipation of opening day, when ""like a kid on the cusp of summer vacation, you can look ahead to a whole long string of seemingly endless weeks,"" that it might serve as an exemplar for the sporting essay, which exists primarily to help hunters through the long dark night of the soul known as off-season. The two short stories, ""Are You Lonesome Tonight?"" and ""In the Drowned Lands,"" though mere tales, crackle with crisp action and keen description, signifying authority of experience. Jones touches all the bases the sporting genre demands--his writing is chock-full of larger-than-life characters, both human and canine; he pays due to the aesthetics of the hunt: the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction mingled with regret when a bird is brought to hand. Yet a preoccupation with the kill risks marring the book with a stunted, adolescent feel by creating the misconception that Jones hasn't outgrown the stage of hunting that measures success by body count, rather than quality of time spent afield. A trifle bloodthirsty, but lively and genuine.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1996

ISBN: 193330913X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lyons & Burford

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996