23 May 2016

Review: A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm by Edwin Way Teale

Hardcover, 250 pages
Published 1987 (originally 1974)
Acquired February 2016
Read April 2016
A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm by Edwin Way Teale

I haven't read much nature writing. This book doesn't convince me to read more. It's so... aimless. Hundreds of pages of Teale-- who I must admit, seems a very nice fellow-- just telling you things he's seen. He loves to count, especially: how many birds flew by, how many sequential times a frog croaked, how long it takes his wife to walk around a pond. But the numbers are just numbers. You don't learn anything from knowing them. Most of what he describes is just there, the book is a blaze of information not put into anything that would give it meaning. Though on the occasions he does moralize, it makes you roll your eyes. Aren't we all just intrepid little squirrels? Honest question: is all nature writing this purposeless, or is it just Teale? Or is it just this book, which was one of the last he wrote? He won a Pulitzer early in his career; that book must have had some kind of point, right?

There are occasional nuggets. As a local, I liked the bits of  Connecticut history he provided, from the founding of his town to some of the local characters. And the chapter where he flies over his property at dawn in a hot-air balloon is delightful. Also: I learned about Lake Char­gog­gag­ogg­man­chaug­gag­ogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg, the longest place name in the United States.

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