Despite some maudlin passages, Gorant ably presents an ugly story with a redemptive ending.

THE LOST DOGS

MICHAEL VICK'S DOGS AND THEIR TALE OF RESCUE AND REDEMPTION

The story of the dogs abused in NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s illegal dogfighting activities.

During the course of another investigation, Virginia state officials were led to a rural property owned by Vick, where they found drug paraphernalia, marijuana and an assortment of guns—as well as evidence of an illegal dogfighting operation, including a pit where dog fights occurred and a field where 66 pit bulls were chained up with very little food and water. Sports Illustrated senior editor Gorant (Fanatic: Ten Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die, 2007) looks at how dedicated local law-enforcement officers and a USDA undercover agent teamed up to gather evidence, bringing the case to trial (“the biggest dogfighting conviction ever, one that set new precedents”), despite local pressure to drop the prosecution. The author presents a nuanced picture of Vick’s involvement, from his original effort to cover up his connection to the dogfighting ring by claiming that he had bought the property for the use of family and friends, to his confession and apology. Sentenced to 23 months in prison, his career was left in shambles and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Another outcome of the case was the rehabilitation of the dogs, which for the first time, writes Gorant, “were looked at not as weapons, as the equivalent of a gun in a shooting, but as victims.” Because of the efforts of dedicated animal-rescue workers, two-thirds found good homes where they were loved and socialized. The author makes a strong case that pit bulls have an underservedly bad reputation—“the latest breed to get sucked into a self-fulfilling cycle of fear, hype, substandard care, and rising population”—following in the footsteps of bloodhounds, German shepherds and Dobermans “as next in the line of tough-guy dogs.”

Despite some maudlin passages, Gorant ably presents an ugly story with a redemptive ending.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-592-40550-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

SILENT SPRING

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Us and its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorker are being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a...

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H IS FOR HAWK

An inspired, beautiful and absorbing account of a woman battling grief—with a goshawk.

Following the sudden death of her father, Macdonald (History and Philosophy/Cambridge Univ.; Falcon, 2006, etc.) tried staving off deep depression with a unique form of personal therapy: the purchase and training of an English goshawk, which she named Mabel. Although a trained falconer, the author chose a raptor both unfamiliar and unpredictable, a creature of mad confidence that became a means of working against madness. “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life,” she writes. As a devotee of birds of prey since girlhood, Macdonald knew the legends and the literature, particularly the cautionary example of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, whose 1951 book The Goshawk details his own painful battle to master his title subject. Macdonald dramatically parallels her own story with White’s, achieving a remarkable imaginative sympathy with the writer, a lonely, tormented homosexual fighting his own sadomasochistic demons. Even as she was learning from White’s mistakes, she found herself very much in his shoes, watching her life fall apart as the painfully slow bonding process with Mabel took over. Just how much do animals and humans have in common? The more Macdonald got to know her, the more Mabel confounded her notions about what the species was supposed to represent. Is a hawk a symbol of might or independence, or is that just our attempt to remake the animal world in our own image? Writing with breathless urgency that only rarely skirts the melodramatic, Macdonald broadens her scope well beyond herself to focus on the antagonism between people and the environment.

Whether you call this a personal story or nature writing, it’s poignant, thoughtful and moving—and likely to become a classic in either genre.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0802123411

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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