THE UNNATURAL ENEMY by Vance Bourjaily


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A sporting book in which a jaunty and jubilant Vance Bourjaily tracks down the good hours and the bad of hunting- its psychology, pleasures, philosophy. Wedding in a sense the novelist to the naturalist, he hustles us through the hazy hinterlands between story, essay and autobiography- or so he suggests. Actually the pieces- allowing for a few crusty, character sketches- are pretty much insider's reports on woodsmanship today: duck shooting in Florida, pheasant and snipe shooting in Iowa, crow blasting there, trout fishing here, and remembrances of more exotic game, like the pato overo of Uruguay. Bourjaily has a springy style (""I wade in myself, mud to ankles, mud to calves, mud to the tops of the low boots I'm wearing; no bird? What the hell, mud over the boot tops, and I finally climb a hummock""), as well as his infatuations (""the forthright green head of the mallard drake...the formal delicacy of a bobwhite quail"") and information (""One prepares a goose blind as one might a camouflaged bunker in trench warfare""). On another level, there's a muscularly moody nostalgia, a few bows to Thoreau, Turgenev and Hemingway, and some sophomoric shudders (""May one write about hunting and not write about death?""). It's all enjoyably energetic, exciting and not for les femmes. But something's amiss.... A few years back Norman Mailer sighted-in on Bourjaily for his ""cuteness"". If by cuteness he meant playfulness without charm, boyishness without youth, then alas the putdown's still only all too apt.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1963
Publisher: Dial