Exuberantly illuminates Central Park’s vibrant, 843-acre nocturnal world.

CENTRAL PARK IN THE DARK

MORE MYSTERIES OF URBAN WILDLIFE

Even blanketed in darkness, Manhattan’s crown jewel teems with fascinating wildlife.

So says Winn, though she admits that as a youngster she was terrified of Central Park after dark. Now, on balmy summer nights, the fearless author and her merry band of “night people” (including a man dressed as Dracula) can be found traversing the park’s leafy, serpentine pathways, armed with flashlights. They have rapturously observed moths rallying around a sap-dripping tree, rodents scampering through the underbrush and various owls on the wing. (The text devotes particular attention, compassion and emotion to these nocturnal fliers.) For Central Park’s “bioblitz,” a daylong census of all living things in specific areas of the park, Winn’s group intrepidly ensnared bats with a net to identify species and habitat. Inviting readers to share her love for animals in their natural habitat, the author mingles personal observations with a plethora of factual information: the echolocation abilities used by bats, distinguishing details of owls, etc. She also includes meticulously detailed notes sent to her by fellow explorers and a posthumous homage to nature-walk “accomplice” Charles Kennedy. Pale Male and Lola, the two hawks perched high above Fifth Avenue chronicled in Winn’s previous book (Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park, 1998), make cameo appearances here. Her group turned its attention to insects at the Parks Department’s “Bug Night”; an entomologist pushing a portable generator to power his black light showed them a host of colorfully winged wonders (mostly moths) fluttering over the Ramble. Though she chronicles a few unsettling encounters with questionable characters lurking in the shadows, Winn does her best to mitigate our instinctive fear of after-dark jaunts in the urban jungle by showing what a breathtaking array of insects and animals it harbors.

Exuberantly illuminates Central Park’s vibrant, 843-acre nocturnal world.

Pub Date: June 17, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-12011-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

HORIZON

Distinguished natural history writer and explorer Lopez (Outside, 2014, etc.) builds a winning memoir around books, voyages, and biological and anthropological observations.

“Traveling, despite the technological innovations that have brought cultural homogenization to much of the world, helps the curious and attentive itinerant understand how deep the notion goes that one place is never actually like another.” So writes the author, who has made a long career of visiting remote venues such as Antarctica, Greenland, and the lesser known of the Galápagos Islands. From these travels he has extracted truths about the world, such as the fact that places differ as widely as the people who live in them. Even when traveling with scientists from his own culture, Lopez finds differences of perception. On an Arctic island called Skraeling, for instance, he observes that if he and the biologists he is walking with were to encounter a grizzly feeding on a caribou, he would focus on the bear, the scientists on the whole gestalt of bear, caribou, environment; if a native of the place were along, the story would deepen beyond the immediate event, for those who possess Indigenous ways of knowledge, “unlike me…felt no immediate need to resolve it into meaning.” The author’s chapter on talismans—objects taken from his travels, such as “a fist-size piece of raven-black dolerite”—is among the best things he has written. But there are plentiful gems throughout the looping narrative, its episodes constructed from adventures over eight decades: trying to work out a bit of science as a teenager while huddled under the Ponte Vecchio after just having seen Botticelli’s Venus; admiring a swimmer as a septuagenarian while remembering the John Steinbeck whom he’d met as a schoolboy; gazing into the surf over many years’ worth of trips to Cape Foulweather, an Oregon headland named by Capt. James Cook, of whom he writes, achingly, “we no longer seem to be sailing in a time of fixed stars, of accurate chronometers, and of reliable routes.”

Exemplary writing about the world and a welcome gift to readers.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-394-58582-6

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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