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TIGERS AND ICE by Edward Hoagland

TIGERS AND ICE

Reflections on Nature and Life

By Edward Hoagland

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55821-742-8
Publisher: Lyons Press

Discerning and lucid meditations on life, sight, death, the land, friendship, and virtue and hope and God, from Hoagland (Balancing Acts: Essays, 1992, etc.). After having gone virtually sightless for three years, Hoagland had his vision surgically returned to him. Evidently, his new plastic implants are of the unalloyed variety, for these essays are altogether perspicuous (“When negotiating with the force of gravity, or with a pride of lions, you foil, not crush, the lions’ charge, so you will have their partnership tomorrow, and make light of gravity’s pull”). He wades right into touchy subjects: suicide, that subversive judgment on the social polity, “grandiose . . . or drably mousy,” and how surviving the impulse makes one warier and chastened, like surviving a heart attack or a cancer operation. On friends: “You give me vitamins; I’ll give you minerals. You give me understanding; I’ll give you patience . . . we muddle through the middle territory of life with their assistance,” sharing “the promiscuity of total, casual confidences.” Five of the eleven pieces involve the celebration of place, from his Vermont home and the “springs in the high woods where the brooks begin” to the rude seas, gelid weather, and all-around stern medicine that is Antarctica, the last being the longest essay in the collection and an exquisitely transporting narrative of wayfaring. For Hoagland still wears his American Transcendentalism on his sleeve, with his “lifelong belief that heaven is on earth,” and the ineradicable astonishment of his “generation’s failure to push past token gestures to change the world for good and to be less greedy and violence-prone than the generations before.” Perhaps it is because Hoagland doesn’t want anything to blur his new eyes—no poetic fog, no lint from overwriting—that these essays are as crisp as those Antarctic vistas, or perhaps turning 60 has made him less chary. Whatever, they are pure food for thought, each chapter a multicourse meal.