HEART AND BLOOD by Richard Nelson


Living with Deer in America
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 Close encounters with Cervidae, from soup to nuts, biological to behavioral to metaphysical, by Nelson (The Island Within, 1989). ``I'm not sure when I became obsessed with deer,'' Nelson admits, but obsessed he is. And he was interested, as a cultural anthropologist, in how the rest of America related to the burgeoning number of deer, so he set out to take their measure in the modern landscape. What he found was not particularly earth- shaking: Some folks love them, some hate them, each and every one has familiar points to make: Deer are sentient beings possessed of grace, loveliness, and innocence, and they ought to be left alone; deer are pests whose overpopulation has led to crop destruction, the jeopardization of rare plant species, not to mention the occasional human erased when 250 pounds of venison come through the windshield, and they ought to be deeply culled. Nelson gives all points of view a fair hearing. Though he is often content to commune with whitetails and blacktails and mules on an unthreatening eyeball-to-eyeball level, he makes it clear he is also a subsistence hunter. After making the case for hunt saboteurs (folks who sally forth to thwart the hunting crowd), he takes a strong pro-hunt position, albeit a rarefied one: He exhorts hunters to treat their quarry with humility and respect; to hunt with skill, knowledge, ethics, and judgment, as Nelson learned while living with Inupiaq Eskimos and Koyukon Indians--the consequences will reverberate beneficially throughout the soul of the community. Nelson's writing can be painfully sentimental (``Lovely deer, you are always in my heart, dancing down the dawn into the light'') and his landscapes overly detailed, yet he can also be crisp and succinct, his arguments cogently tendered. A compelling, multifaceted, and broadly curious portrait of the deer among us.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-40522-4
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997