DANCERS IN THE SUNSET SKY

THE MUSINGS OF A BIRD HUNTER

A medley of well-crafted essays and short stories highlights one man's lifelong love affair with bird hunting. Jones, a novelist and former Sports Illustrated staffer, writes for hunting magazines like Sports Afield and Gray's Sporting Journal. No surprise, then, that much of his nonfiction reads less like essays than magazine articles. But even the most topical, how- to piece, like ``America's Bird,'' mixes history, ornithology, and autobiography with Jones's turkey hunting dos and don'ts, adding a savory-sounding recipe for roast wild gobbler to boot. ``D-Day In Maryland'' surpasses simple instruction to capture the mythic atmosphere and tradition of wingshooting at a Chesapeake Bay hunting club. So skillfully does it pinpoint the delicious anticipation of opening day, when ``like a kid on the cusp of summer vacation, you can look ahead to a whole long string of seemingly endless weeks,'' that it might serve as an exemplar for the sporting essay, which exists primarily to help hunters through the long dark night of the soul known as off-season. The two short stories, ``Are You Lonesome Tonight?'' and ``In the Drowned Lands,'' though mere tales, crackle with crisp action and keen description, signifying authority of experience. Jones touches all the bases the sporting genre demands—his writing is chock-full of larger-than-life characters, both human and canine; he pays due to the aesthetics of the hunt: the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction mingled with regret when a bird is brought to hand. Yet a preoccupation with the kill risks marring the book with a stunted, adolescent feel by creating the misconception that Jones hasn't outgrown the stage of hunting that measures success by body count, rather than quality of time spent afield. A trifle bloodthirsty, but lively and genuine. (line art)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1996

ISBN: 1-55821-496-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

DUMB LUCK AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

The latest collection of interrelated essays by the veteran fishing writer.

As in his previous books—from The View From Rat Lake through All Fishermen Are Liars—Gierach hones in on the ups and downs of fishing, and those looking for how-to tips will find plenty here on rods, flies, guides, streams, and pretty much everything else that informs the fishing life. It is the everything else that has earned Gierach the following of fellow writers and legions of readers who may not even fish but are drawn to his musings on community, culture, the natural world, and the seasons of life. In one representatively poetic passage, he writes, “it was a chilly fall afternoon with the leaves changing, the current whispering, and a pale moon in a daytime sky. The river seemed inscrutable, but alive with possibility.” Gierach writes about both patience and process, and he describes the long spells between catches as the fisherman’s equivalent of writer’s block. Even when catching fish is the point, it almost seems beside the point (anglers will understand that sentiment): At the end of one essay, he writes, “I was cold, bored, hungry, and fishless, but there was still nowhere else I’d have rather been—something anyone who fishes will understand.” Most readers will be profoundly moved by the meditation on mortality within the blandly titled “Up in Michigan,” a character study of a man dying of cancer. Though the author had known and been fishing with him for three decades, his reticence kept anyone from knowing him too well. Still, writes Gierach, “I came to think of [his] glancing pronouncements as Michigan haiku: brief, no more than obliquely revealing, and oddly beautiful.” Ultimately, the man was focused on settling accounts, getting in one last fishing trip, and then planning to “sit in the sun and think things over until it’s time for hospice.”

In these insightfully droll essays, Gierach shows us how fishing offers plenty of time to think things over.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6858-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more