AUDUBON READER: The Best Writings of John James Audubon by Scott Russell--Ed. Sanders

AUDUBON READER: The Best Writings of John James Audubon

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A selection of the varied writings of the famed painter and naturalist culled by Sanders (English/Indiana). Although Audubon was the unlikeliest of writers--his snarled syntax and rough diction had to be reshaped by a legion of editors, friends, and family members--he fascinates nevertheless by his sheer copiousness. What Sanders gives us is a mixture of what he calls ""Audubon 'raw' and Audubon 'cooked,' between the private voice of the letters and unedited journals, on the one hand, and the public voice of the Ornithological Biography and the expurgated journals, on the other."" Beyond the wondrous natural descriptions in the selections from the Biography, we get to see Audubon's stormy mood swings in his journals, along with a bumpy road of boasting, begging, fear of failure, and tenacity in his quest for fame, accompanied by the insecurity which never quite let him enjoy it. Audubon always felt restricted by his backwoods upbringing. Upon meeting a well-bred Englishwoman, he writes in his journal, ""Her eyes reached my very soul, and I feared her presence. I know that at one glance she had discovered my great inferiority."" Audubon's early European journals show him playing the role of savage backwoodsman in Europe's cultivated parlors, a sort of innocent abroad, while his later journals are more reportorial. Describing his encounter with broiled dog, for instance, he writes, ""No sooner had the taste touched my palate than I changed my dislike to liking, and found this victim of the canine order most excellent."" These selections, too, are most excellent and can only whet one's appetite for more.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press