THE EDGE OF THE SEA

The Sea Around Us and Under the Sea-Wind introduced Rachel Carson to a reading public eager to welcome a scientist who wrote like a poet. This poetic quality is again dominant in this interpretation of the nature of the shore and the life in which it abounds. All of us brought up near the coast have something of the beach comber in us. Here is a book that will make that beach combing meaningful. The life of the creatures that inhabited the shells we find, the kinds of living creatures that can be sought and found on rugged, rocky shores, on sand beaches, on coral reefs — these are made integral parts of the basic theme of the sea and its forces, its tides and currents. Miss Carson begins with her own Maine seacoast, and with her we explore the surf zone- where barnacles, limpets, periwinkles manage to survive. She identifies for us the zones of life, synchronized with the tides, the animal and vegetable world these rocky shores support. She makes the tide pools seas in miniature... Next on the rim of sand beaches she explores the holes and tracks of sand beach fauna, the burrowers, and the clams and whelks that come out at low tide, the flotsam of the upper beaches. Farther south- geologic history is written in the reefs off the Carolina coast, and the sponges, starfish, the barnacles and shipworm tunnels of the spars and driftwood tell their story. Ocean currents and the variety of mollusks they bring up, from the northeast down to the Florida Keys, chart the geographic areas and limitations. In the Keys one encounters the coral coast — with a new sea world of vast variety. And in this area, too, the mangrove swamps and shore lines, the sea grasses, play host to other mollusks, to camouflaged sea creatures, to fresh evidence of the balance in the life at "the edge of the sea". The Appendix and the Index contribute important data on classification and nomenclature. But for the average layman, the fascination of the book lies not in its scientific value as a hand book, but in the exquisite form in which it is cast. Once again a poet speaks.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0395924960

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1955

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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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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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