Readers familiar with Cape Cod will deepen their view of the place by following Finch’s pages; those who do not know it will...

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DEATH OF A HORNET

AND OTHER CAPE COD ESSAYS

Lyrical essays on place from a longtime resident of the Massachusetts shore.

Finch, coeditor of the Norton Book of Nature Writing, has the nature-essay form down cold. He observes some quotidian fact of life, elaborates on it for a few pages, and closes with a sententious moral. So it is with the title essay, in which Finch describes the assassination of a yellow hornet by a spider that had hidden itself carefully away in a corner of its study; the spider, he writes, “was almost solicitous, as if ministering to the stricken hornet, as carefully and as kindly as possible ending its struggles and its agony.” The moral Finch draws is this: “There is only the stillness of an eternal present and the silent architecture of perfectly strung possibilities.” Finch repeats the formula in 43 other short pieces, all crafted at magazine-filler or radio-spot length: here he considers the behavior of migratory whales (the former mainstay of the Cape Cod economy), there he writes of ancient trees, wily fish, and passing birds. Unlike some practitioners of the nature-essay form, Finch even finds room in nature for humans (albeit in a wary, Robert Frost-ish way). For humans, he observes, are as responsible as the winds and tides for shaping places like Cape Cod, manifesting themselves in “a well-ploughed field, a well-tended garden, colorful flower-boxes, planted trees, drained bogs and swamps, and barn full of hay and a woodshed full of stove logs.” Finch is meditative and celebratory, and he almost always avoids the genre’s traps—chief among them sentimentality and self-indulgence.

Readers familiar with Cape Cod will deepen their view of the place by following Finch’s pages; those who do not know it will likely want to have a look for themselves.

Pub Date: May 15, 2000

ISBN: 1-58243-049-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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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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