On a Farther Shore

Overview

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement

She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.

Rachel Carson began work on ...

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Overview

Published on the fiftieth anniversary of her seminal book, Silent Spring, here is an indelible new portrait of Rachel Carson, founder of the environmental movement

She loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries, including the international bestseller The Sea Around Us. But it was with her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.

Rachel Carson began work on Silent Spring in the late 1950s, when a dizzying array of synthetic pesticides had come into use. Leading this chemical onslaught was the insecticide DDT, whose inventor had won a Nobel Prize for its discovery. Effective against crop pests as well as insects that transmitted human diseases such as typhus and malaria, DDT had at first appeared safe. But as its use expanded, alarming reports surfaced of collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife. Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and its effects, which were lasting, widespread, and lethal.

Published in 1962, Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action-despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry. The book awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the EPA and to the banning of DDT and a host of related pesticides. By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentle ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism.

Elegantly written and meticulously researched, On a Farther Shore reveals a shy yet passionate woman more at home in the natural world than in the literary one that embraced her. William Souder also writes sensitively of Carson's romantic friendship with Dorothy Freeman, and of her death from cancer in 1964. This extraordinary new biography captures the essence of one of the great reformers of the twentieth century.

A New York Times Notable Book of 2012

“A suspenseful tale of the literary life…utterly inspiring.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Captivating…Souder writes vividly and with great empathy for his subject and her cause.” —New York Times Book Review

“A delightful, fascinating, engrossing read about some of the most important insights of modern science. You’ll find yourself thinking about Carson whenever you take a walk in the woods.” —Slate.com

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This biography of marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson (1907-1964) arrives on the 50th anniversary of the publication of her Silent Spring, the seminal work that galvanized interest in the crimes we are committing to the world around us. Souder's On a Farther Shore introduces us to a shy, gifted young woman who despite financial hardship and sexism somehow managed to transform a lowly job at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries into a career as an activist author.

The New York Times Book Review
…engrossing…Souder writes vividly and with great empathy for his subject and her cause…In Souder's telling, almost every aspect of Carson's life and times becomes captivating: her difficult personal circumstances (she grew up in rural poverty, was the sole breadwinner in her family and battled breast cancer while writing and then defending Silent Spring); the publishing milieu; and the continuing friction between those who would preserve nature versus those who would bend it to provide utility for man.
—Elizabeth Royte
The Washington Post
Without overstating the point, Souder draws a portrait of cultural and political life in the middle of the 20th century and places Carson squarely at the center of it…Carson didn't live long enough to see the ban on DDT that resulted from her work…but in Souder's telling she was a quintessential woman of her time, juggling the demands of a family, a complicated love affair, an illness and a high-profile career, and somehow managing to sit down in the center of it and get her work done.
—Amy Stewart
Publishers Weekly
In this expansive, nuanced biography, Souder (Under a Wild Sky) portrays Carson as a woman passionate in friendship, poetic and innovative in her books about the sea, gentle but ambitious, assiduously keeping tabs on her publisher’s promotion of her work. A writer since childhood, Carson, inspired by a college professor, developed a love for biology and combined her two passions in a career that included three bestselling books. A “spinster” and professional in a time when marriage was the norm, Carson supported her family all her life, first her mother and siblings, later adopting her nephew, and followed her vision with an artist’s determination. Extending beyond Carson’s immediate biography, Souder meanders into the lives of writers who influenced her and devotes long sections to the hydrogen bomb and cold war anxiety about nuclear annihilation, the chemistry of pesticides like DDT and their flagrant postwar use, and an emerging understanding of ecology. Carson, under severe stress and exhaustion from a cancer that took her life, synthesized these issues in Silent Spring, a meticulously researched, policy-changing picture of an Earth poisoned by humanity; she died shortly after its publication in 1962. Fifty years later, her insights are surprisingly relevant: “We’re challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery not of nature, but of ourselves.” Agent: Chuck Verrill, Darhansoff Verrill Feldman. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Published on the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring, Pulitzer Prize finalist Souder (Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America) explores the life and works of Rachel Carson through meticulous research on her writings, relationships, and struggles. Portrayed alternately as full of stamina and fragile, Carson is depicted as a smart, hardworking woman who was not afraid of success and often fought her way into the limelight more aggressively than her introverted personality might have indicated. More than a biography of Carson, this book is a biography of oceanography, of naturalism and conservation, and of science writing. As Carson did in her own work, Souder presents the development of modern science writing as a living thing, evolving and changing in relation to what it encounters. VERDICT At a time when genetic modification of foods remains politically charged and scientifically debatable, the story of Silent Spring and its author is valuable and relevant, and for those who have celebrated Carson's work, this book is a treat full of big ideas and little details that satisfy and inspire. Fans of Carson, as well as of science writers like Aldo Leopold and Steven Jay Gould, will devour this book. As an achievement in biography and a celebration of science writing, it is strongly recommended.—Jaime Hammond, Naugatuck Valley Community Coll. Lib., Waterbury, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Fifty years after the publication of Rachel Carson's seminal Silent Spring, Pulitzer Prize nominee Souder (Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of The Birds of America, 2004, etc.) examines the legacy and lasting impact of Carson's passionate environmental work. "By 1959, some eighty million pounds of DDT were being used annually in the United States," writes the author. Already a vocal conservationist, Carson had long suspected that pesticide use was accumulatively detrimental to animals and humans. This holistic view of the living world was startling and prescient, and it struck a chord with an American public that was already spooked by the similar dangers of fallout from nuclear testing. Carson grappled with the literary celebrity that accompanied Silent Spring, yearning to maintain a quiet, private life yet forced to answer the powerful opposition she faced from the chemical industry. Souder writes beautifully about this dichotomy, revealing intimate details about the writing process and her relationships with editors, fans, family and her beloved companion Dorothy Freeman, with whom she spent some of her happiest moments while on the Maine coastline. The author also conducted ample contextual research, providing readers with a clear sense of the political, economic and social ramifications of DDT use and the threat of atomic warfare and how Carson's writing played a vital role in progressive public policy for decades after her death. One wonders how the past 50 years might have been different were Carson alive to write about global warming, fossil fuels, the erosion of coral reefs and other similar matters. That her views on DDT were eventually proven correct is just a small part of her legacy as an environmental pioneer, but also a defining instance of citizen activism. A poignant, galvanizing, meaningful tribute.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781470826673
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2012
  • Format: Other

Meet the Author

WILLIAM SOUDER is the author of two previous books, A Plague of Frogs and Under a Wild Sky, a biography of John James Audubon that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Grant, Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

P A R T O N E Water World O N E Miss Carson’s Book
 
T W O Bright as the Midday Sun
 
T H R E E Biologizing
 
F O U R The English Connection and the Ocean Deep
 
F I V E This Beautiful and Sublime World
 
S I X Author Triumphant
 
P A R T T W O Silent Spring S E V E N Dorothy
 
 
E I G H T The Enduring Sea
 
N I N E Earth on Fire
 
T E N Collateral Damage
 
E L E V E N High Tides and Low
 
Epilogue
 
Acknowledgments
 
Notes
 
Bibliography
 
Index
 

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