Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and the Abuse of Nature

Overview

The year 2000 has the dubious distinction of boasting the highest sustained energy use, the most dramatic destruction of habitat, having the fastest-growing suburbs of all time. Most of us watch with mild concern.

Joy Williams does much more than watch. With guts and passion, she sounds the alarm over the general disconnection from the natural world that our consumer culture has created. The culling of elephants, electron-probed chimpanzees, ...

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Overview

The year 2000 has the dubious distinction of boasting the highest sustained energy use, the most dramatic destruction of habitat, having the fastest-growing suburbs of all time. Most of us watch with mild concern.

Joy Williams does much more than watch. With guts and passion, she sounds the alarm over the general disconnection from the natural world that our consumer culture has created. The culling of elephants, electron-probed chimpanzees, and the vanishing wetlands are just some of her subjects. Among the thirteen essays herein are:

  • Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp, which considers the way we seem to love what we love to death.
  • The Killing Game, her famous anti-hunting essay that caused a furor when it first appeared in Esquire.
  • Safariland, deals with the state of wildlife in Africa.
  • The Animal People, her take on the animal rights movement.
  • The Case Against Babies, which remarks on the blithe determination of Americans to continue to populate the earth.
Razor sharp, controversial, scathingly opinionated, and refreshingly unafraid of conflict, Williams refuses to compromise as she lashes out at the greed of Americans and decries our own turpitude. It is not enough to mourn the passing of the natural world, her book shouts. Get out of your homes, your cars, and your cubicles and do something....now.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sharp, sarcastic and uncompromising, Williams tackles a host of controversial subjects in this collection of 19 impassioned essays dealing mostly with humans' abuses of the natural world. Two of the collection's strongest essays deal with animal rights: "The Killing Game," an antihunting essay first published, to great furor, in Esquire, and "The Animal People," which casts a harsh eye on the agricultural, medical and environmental establishments for their treatment of animals. Other pieces note the diminished state of African wildlife ("Safariland"), the increasing number of babies born in the United States despite the threat of overpopulation ("The Case Against Babies") and the impact of consumer culture on the natural world ("Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp"). An acclaimed novelist (The Quick and the Dead) and Guggenheim fellow, Williams writes that her essays, unlike her stories, are "meant to annoy and trouble and polarize"; she terms her own nonfiction style "unelusive and strident and brashly one-sided." Readers will likely find all this true. At times, the collection falters under the weight of Williams's anger and moral indignation, and a few essays that are only loosely nature-related ("Sharks and Suicide," "The Electric Chair" and "Why I Write") undermine its momentum. However, her forceful writing and vivid depictions of habitat destruction and animal abuse ("Neverglades," "Wildebeest") make for compelling reading. Williams believes that the "ecological crisis" facing us is essentially a "moral issue," one caused by "culture and character, and a deep change in personal consciousness is needed." While it is unlikely that her combative rants will win new converts, some environmentalists may find this book a powerful call to action. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This is not a comfortable book; nor can it be cast aside as just another tiresome list of environmental ills. In this collection of essays, Williams decries the ecological devastation caused by development, technology, and an out-of-control population. She minces no words in her treatment of hunters, wildlife managers, scientists who use animals in research, and a general public addicted to consumerism. Her writing is heavy with sarcasm and irony. It is also compelling, and the ten chapters go quickly. Williams is a seasoned writer, the author of several works of fiction (The Quick and the Dead) as well as nonfiction and recipient of a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Although the chapters "Sharks and Suicide" and "Hawk" diverge from her environmental theme to follow other musings, as a whole the work is effective and will likely leave the reader angry, frustrated, distressed, or depressed, which is, after all, her intent. Highly recommended for environmental and general collections.--Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ., Sault Ste. Marie, MI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-These 19 essays were first published (some in different form) in magazines as diverse as Esquire and Mother Jones. Alternating long essays with short ones, Williams looks at the state of nature and the destruction wrought upon it by humans from rich nations-and the inexcusable obliviousness of those people to what they are doing. She charms with wit and passion: as she says in the last essay, "Why I Write," "The good piece of writing startles the reader back into Life." These are, by that standard, good pieces of writing. The title of one chapter, "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimps," conveys something of Williams's freewheeling style. "The Case Against Babies" (another knockout) might come as a revelation to many young women, even as it outrages some of their parents. "The Killing Game" is probably the best-known piece here because of the hate mail it provoked when first published. There are no "pros and cons" here: wrong is wrong, as every child knows (and many teens have not yet forgotten), and Williams knows her own mind. Though the subjects are often distressing, many teens will identify strongly with her moral outrage at injustices and cruelties inflicted upon the defenseless, and will be heartened to find a writer who so effectively expresses so much of what they feel. The book has a hideous cover but readers who get past its off-putting face will be rewarded-whether they hate it or love it-with a truly colorful reading experience.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
This collection of essays and stories by Joy Williams<-->superb stalker of the nature-decimating American lifestyle whose short essays and stories have appeared in , and <-->shoots right between the eyes, especially in her lead piece "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp." "One Acre," describes her fortressed and feral Key West home, and how she sold it with the legal stipulation that it not be developed or altered. These 10 essays are angry and articulate "nature writing" that underline, boldly, subjects such as hunting, animal rights, having babies, and the Everglades. No index or notes, and suited to any reader who can stand the heat. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
With wicked irony and wacky humor, essayist and novelist Williams (The Quick and the Dead, 2000, etc.) assails hunters, land developers, and scientists who experiment on animals. These 19 pieces (modified from previous incarnations) display Williams's mastery of a vast arsenal of literary weapons. Most potent of all is her wit. The opening essay, a tour de force written in the second person, skewers ordinary Americans who drift along with scarcely a thought about the consequences of their waste and their cruelty to other animals:"You don't want to think about it! It's all so uncool." In another piece about Africa's rapidly declining animal populations, she comments,"They're still out there, in Africa, offering people the experience of their existence. Isn't that nice?" Included here too are a controversial anti-hunting piece, whose original publication in Esquire occasioned many angry replies, and a funny rant about the humorless determination of American women, especially infertile women, to have babies—the author's sly digression about Cabbage Patch dolls is worth the purchase price all by itself. Williams employs stealth weapons as well as heavy artillery. The account of her attempt to keep one acre of Florida in a natural state is as wistful as it is belligerent, and in a mere page and a half she deftly fillets John James Audubon, who killed for amusement far more birds than he ever painted. Perhaps the most gripping piece of all,"Hawk" begins with a lovely meditation about Glenn Gould, then segues seamlessly into a narrative about her loyal and loving German shepherd, which one day attacked without warning and nearly killed her. Williams, who has effectivelyarrangedthevolume with longer pieces separated by very short ones, concludes with"Why I Write," an exquisite essay of illuminating paradoxes—e.g.,"A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light." Savage, serious, hilarious, passionate, loving, and lyrical.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585741878
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.77 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.88 (d)

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