PASTORALE: A Natural History of Sorts by Jake Page

PASTORALE: A Natural History of Sorts

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Wonderfully warm, often droll essays, mostly on nature, by an ex-urbanite now firmly rooted in rural Virginia. Page, a regular of both Science 84 and Country magazine (where some of these pieces appeared), talks of what goes on in his backyard, in the basement, in the extravagant backporch-cum-aviary--as well as of larger wonders wrought by nature, evolution, technology, and culture. There are humorous bits on the cloning of wire clothes hangers or the cannibalism of socks, the teenager effects on entropy or the basic horridness of all insects except ladybugs, fireflies, and butterflies. (That piece evoked such stern rebuttals that Page was forced to recant, albeit archly.) Then there are more speculative considerations: why mockingbirds mock? (for sheer aesthetic pleasure?) or why the spate of non-scientific beliefs cropping up even among scientists? These show a romantic side of Page that may bolster other persons for whom the ""magic"" of nature holds special meaning. Yet others will be more satisfied by the sharp-tongued, sharp-eyed expositions of human and animal behavior, the vignettes of Page's neighbors (the earnest convert to French intensive gardening, the boor who wanted to invoke zoning laws to forbid the Pages' ten-chicken coop). The essays are loosely grouped into four sections: Household Ecology, Backyard Ecology, Explorations (the cosmic and evolutionary themes), and, for a final fillip, Seasonal Matters--summing up four critical times of the year with both homely descriptions (how the Pages spend December 31) and scientific explanations (why you can always count on yellow leaves in fall, but reds are iffy), as well as eternal-return themes. Fine diversions, somewhat in the E.B. White tradition.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1985
ISBN: 0393334325
Publisher: Norton