A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS by Bernd Heinrich

A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Heinrich's tedious personal account of 12 long months holed up in the wilderness of western Maine is so didactic and self-involved that it makes the reader want to hightail it to the nearest strip mall, where people are at least what they seem. Heinrich (Ravens in Winter, 1989, etc.), a zoologist tired of paper pushing at the University of Vermont, retreats to the New England woods to see the world up close. He chops down trees, assembles a log cabin, digs a latrine, and plants vegetables. But for all his posturing, this hideaway for do-it-yourselfers is not so solitary or so rustic. A newspaper arrives at his mailbox daily (he claims it's necessary so that he can start his morning fire); and he installs a telephone and answering machine in his neighbors' outhouse. Most of Heinrich's days are spent watching his pet raven, Jack, eat the roadkill he has lovingly collected for the bird while fondly recalling meals of run-over muskrat and raccoon he himself consumed in college; calculating the number of seeds a young birch has to shed (2,415,000); creating endless lists of the colors of fall leaves (``light lemon yellow,'' ``yellow with dot-sized red speckles,'' etc.); counting and counting the black cluster flies that invade his cabin (12,800, or ``nine and a half cups full, level''); explaining how to prepare braised mice (``pull the skins off and the guts out'' and throw them in a little olive oil); and making flatulent observations like ``Life is not a spectator sport.'' Heinrich should have learned a lesson from the mountain men he calls his heroes: ``tough men, who did not write books about their exploits, or even talk of them.'' Banality posing as self-knowledge. More boring than Walden.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-201-62252-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994




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