FLIGHT MAPS by Jennifer Price


Adventures with Nature in Modern America
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Piquant explorations of attitudes toward the “natural” world as mediated by the likes of Ralph and Martha and Hollywood, from essayist Price. Accept as a given, Price reasonably suggests, that our “most common and everyday encounters with the natural world take place through mass-produced culture.” How, then, do lawn ornaments and Northern Exposure and a scad of like vehicles and arbiters shape our perceptions of nature? Price believes they have condemned nature as a Place Apart from our daily life, molded to the needs of those in power: the politicians, the business elite, the purveyors of fashion. Worse still, our alienation from nature makes it that much easier to ignore those times when our dealings with it don’t jibe with our professions of concern toward it. This is hardly late-breaking news, Price notes, using as an example the late, lamented passenger pigeon, whose sorry fate a century ago was engineered by market forces: it was much in demand at the restaurant table. Regarding matters of taste in our communions with nature, Price turns to lawn flamingoes (are they any more an artifice than Capability Brown’s interventions?) and their evolution from an expression of working-class landscape strategy to symbols of “anything outrageous, rebellious, oxymoronic, inappropriate or transgressive.” The last two chapters enter the mare’s nest of green stores and green television. The former, epitomized by the Nature Company, erecting a false-front concern for nature as it sustains “the capitalist overconsumption of resources that underpins American middle- and upper-class life.” With flair, Price makes her point: For better or worse, from Lascaux to Marty Stouffer, our notions of “nature” are often a self-serving, corrupting social construct that can be used to navigate an avoidance of societal and economic problems rather than highlighting them.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-465-02485-8
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1999