City Wilds: Essays and Stories about Urban Nature

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Overview


The assumptions we make about nature writing too often lead us to see it only as a literature about wilderness or rural areas. This anthology broadens our awareness of American nature writing by featuring the flora, fauna, geology, and climate that enrich and shape urban life. Set in neither pristine nor exotic environs, these stories and essays take us to rivers, parks, vacant lots, lakes, gardens, and zoos as they convey nature's rich disregard of city limits signs.

With writings by women and men from cities in all regions of the country and from different ethnic traditions, the anthology reflects the geographic differences and multicultural makeup of our cities. Works by well-known and emerging contemporary writers are included as well as pieces from important twentieth-century urban nature writers.

Since more than 80 percent of Americans now live in urban areas, we need to enlarge our environmental concerns to encompass urban nature. By focusing on urban nature writing, the selections in City Wilds can help develop a more inclusive environmental consciousness, one that includes both the nature we see on a day-to-day basis and how such nearby nature is viewed by writers from diverse cultural backgrounds.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
In over 300 tightly printed pages, this anthology collects 35 previously published essays and stories about how life in American cities need not be divorced from interaction with nature. Compared to other such collections I've reviewed for KLIATT over the years, the editor's choices here seem a little drab. Nevertheless, City Wilds has many highlights. Michael Aaron Rockland's account of canoeing around Manhattan with a friend is a delight. The trip included an overnight in Tyron Park at the northern tip of the island and shooting the hair-raising rapids next to Roosevelt Island. Joy Williams, in excoriating what population growth, development, and money have done to Florida, minces no words in her despair. She also questions the value of the endless stream of nature essays published each year, including her own: "Nature writing is enjoying a renaissance. This seems to be in lieu of nature itself, which is not.... Nature is receding in many different ways at once and may in fact, in our time, be utterly subsumed by language." The other writers, for the most part, soldier on, some of them wittily. Robert Michael Pyle begins his essay on the gradual degradation of his urban environment this way: "I became a nonbeliever and a conservationist in one fell swoop. All it took was the Lutherans paving their parking lot." The essays are arranged geographically, beginning in the Northeast, heading south, and ending up in Seattle. Thus urban readers from around the country can check in to see how their city is doing—a fishless river in Minneapolis, a rapacious sinkhole in small-town Texas, the brown recluse spiders of L.A., and so on. Overall, the news is not good. KLIATT Codes:SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Univ. of Georgia Press, 311p., Healy
Booknews
Dixon (U. of Houston) provides a short introduction to each excerpt or essay published here, giving details of the author's life and work. The collection of 35 pieces provides a broad overview of American writers as well as a thought-provoking read on the subject of urban nature. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

"What is urban nature? It's everything that's alive and everything of the natural world that enhances life in a city—trees, wildlife, weeds, and clouds. A sane environmentalism needs to break down the opposition between city and country and to look at the interpenetrations of wildness and culture in our great urban theaters. So this book is not only delightful and instructive; it's urgently important."--Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States

"All the senses are alive in the best of these essays and stories. The writing proves the old theory that our finest metaphors come from nature, no matter where we find it."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"City Wilds is the book I have been waiting for! And I have no doubt that others will feel the same, especially if they teach classes on ecocriticism, nature writing, or urban culture. . . . Not only does Dixon's collection help heal the rift between nature and city, it is also a pleasure to read. The stories and essays are, for the most part, thoughtful, beautiful, attentive, insightful, and grounded. . . . City Wilds is the text I needed to fill a gap in my syllabi, but it is also a collection I enjoyed reading for its own sake, and one that makes an important contribution to the development of a more inclusive environmental consciousness."--ISLE

"It is impossible to do justice to thirty-five stories in one review. So I'll tell you thata they're all interesting and personal—some serious or funny, some joyful or sad, some a combination—and that in all their far-flung diversity, each illustrates that all-important intimacy. . . . City Wilds is a story collection book-loving naturalists would appreciate."--Canadian Field-Naturalist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820323503
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2002
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author


Terrell Dixon was one of the first teachers and scholars to focus on the literature of urban nature. Dixon is the author of numerous essays on ecocriticism and environmental literature and is coeditor of Being in the World: An Environmental Reader for Writers. He teaches literature and the environment and ecocomposition at the University of Houston.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Reversing the Tides 1
2 The Moss Rose 8
3 Where Have All the Animals Gone? The Lamentable Extinction of Zoos 13
4 Touching the Earth 28
5 Big City Waters 34
6 Bottles of Beaujolais 47
7 New Moon over Roxbury: Reflections on Urban Life and the Land 61
8 Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah 73
9 The Silence 80
10 A Paradise of Frogs 86
11 The Girl Who Raised Pigeons 89
12 Disturbing the Universe 109
13 Florida 114
14 Paddling off the Edge of the Big Easy 119
15 Swamp Boy 132
16 Conquistador 142
17 The Soul of Treaty Oak 154
18 The Monkey Garden 164
19 Chicago Waters 168
20 Some Experiences with Insects 174
21 Thank God It Snowed 182
22 Minnehaha Creek 186
23 Feral Lasers 195
24 The Fabulous Sinkhole 204
25 The Snake 225
26 Willow Game 237
27 Claiming the Yard 245
28 From Pieces of Light 250
29 The Extinction of Experience 257
30 The Dark Constable 268
31 Nature Near 278
32 The Moths 287
33 Opossums and Thieving Pelicans 293
34 The Cleveland Wrecking Yard 299
35 Plantswomen 305
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