Book review: [N]ever Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

Mark Twain on the tundra: At times, that’s how this 1963 classic played to my mind.     Farley Mowat’s sense of humor €”often self-directed €”and the acuity of his social criticism reminded me so much of Twain’s acerbic wit that I found myself reading Mowat but seeing in the text Sam Clemens’ ghost €”flowing white hair, white mustache, white suit, as many photos portray him.

I read Never Cry Wolf for two reasons.   First, wolves have begun appearing in northern Utah and the rancher v. wolf conflict is heating up.   In fact, as the success of the reintroduction of wolves to the U.S. spills into states surrounding Yellowstone, human competition with wolves and with other humans supportive of wolves’ return has intensified sharply, with people scrambling to find language either to justify resisting the animals’ arrival or to lay out the welcome mat and defend the animals’ rights to territory. Continue reading “Book review: [N]ever Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat”

Summer reading

I’m getting ready to crack the spine on Terry Tempest Williams’ latest book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.   Over a year ago, I heard her read a little from the pre-publication draft and attended a workshop she conducted.   It was  apparent to me that she had changed her approach to her audience somewhat as well as to people she does not expect to be in her audience but are part of  her expressed concern with  the stances human beings take in or  against nature.        

If anybody would like to join me in reading this book, we could discuss it here on WIZ as we go along.   If nobody else wishes to read with me, then I’ll put up a review, probably in August.   It takes me a while to get through a book because I take copious notes but I’ll try to keep up a reasonable pace.

Also, if anybody has reading  suggestions  for nature-themed fiction, non-fiction nature writing (ex. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods), or literary science or nature writing, including nature-themed poetry, Mormon or un-, please list them in the comments.

If you would like to read my Field Notes from  Williams’ writing  workshop, go here.

Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers

The Ellen Meloy Fund has awarded their grant of $2000 to Amy Irvine, author of Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land,  to support her work on her upcoming book, Terra Firma.   This is the fund’s fourth annual grant.

She competed for this grant last year, too, when the award went to Joe Wilkins.

Since then, Trespass has garnered a wide readership.   Like Terry Tempest Williams, Irvine comes from Utah Mormon pioneer stock and engages in broad social criticism of her native culture, especially its land use practices. Continue reading “Amy Irvine McHarg wins Ellen Meloy Fund for Desert Writers”

Review: Coyote, by Wyman Meinzer

Wyman Meinzer.   Coyote.   Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1995.   128 pages.   Cloth: $19.95; ISBN 0-89672-353-4.

Coyote is classified as a €œpictorial work, € a coffee-table book.   Of its 128 pages, only the first 44 contain text; captioned,  gorgeous photos of coyotes that the author took himself during his many years of coyote research fill out the  book’s bulk.  

The  textual  material of Coyote contains just enough information about C. latrans to help me form more precise questions about the animal’s nature and habits.   On one hand, I felt  the book’s imparted insights rather  on the lightweight side.   I had hoped that it would reflect in greater depth and detail what Meinzer learned about this intriguing animal after over three decades of study.   Instead, he gives readers slightly more than the basics.    He remarks  for instance on how  coyotes have  about 11 categories of vocalizations, but he only lists  3 of them,  offering only slight elaboration on those.   The coyote’s vocal repetoire is one of the most fetching of this animal’s qualities.   Why not at least  touch upon  the other 8 categories?  

On the other hand, I learned enough from the book to gain a fair starting point for my investigation into this creature with whom I’ve begun crossing paths more frequently and intimately.   The book’s beautiful 70 plus pages of photos are instructional in a deeper way.   People able to read animal body language  will find them engaging and meaningful.

Some of Meinzer’s writing is bumpy, requiring the reader to  guess his  meaning.   For example, p. 34: €œIf excavation allows, I have observed dens with nursing quarters or enlarged rooms with side tunnels to accommodate the young whelps. €   Deciphering who or what excavation allows to do what takes a bit of work.   Does  Meinzer mean that  if conditions permit him to excavate a den (which he has done in his research), then he observes in the process these den structures?   Or does he mean that if excavation conditions  prove favorable  for the coyotes, then he’s seen them build dens having these characteristics?   Also, €œyoung € modifying €œwhelps € seems unnecessary.

Well,  like I said, Coyote is a coffee-table book, maybe a bit light on information but packed with eye-catching pictures, which in this case do more than simply  enchant the eye.   These pictures reveal  important information about coyote body postures and behavior.   However, if you want greater precision in expression or are looking to learn about the  possible range of coyote vocalizations and gain greater insight into marking practices (which I do), you have to look elsewhere.   Where?   I’m not sure yet.   If anybody has suggestions, please, do tell.