Friday, January 22, 2010

William Henry Hudson

Hampshire Days and Nature in Downland by W.H. Hudson

Listen carefully to dear, old W.H. Hudson. He will tell you of long days rambling down country lanes, of ancient stone walls and green pastures, of deep forests and crumbling cottages, of overgrown churchyards and hidden villages. He will tell tales of rustic farmers and humorous preachers, of skilled fishermen and innocent village girls. He will sing to you of his special love, the birds: of wrens and plovers, of geese and herons, of curlews and peewits, of cuckoos and swallows. He will tell you of wild England as no other writer can.

Hudson is one of the last of the old-style, amateur naturalists, but he is also a writer. His observations are accurate, but poetic rather than prosaic, with just the right mix of fancy and science. And Hudson’s narrative rambles as he does. He will talk about observations he made about bird behavior in the marshes, move on to an incident in the forest where a spider killed a grasshopper, and then to a meditation on death as he rests on an ancient barrow on the heath. Hampshire Days and Nature in Downland are two of the last good examples of how science and art once met on the page without conflict.

This review first appeared in Hackwriters: The International Writers' Journal.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Southern Connecticut Mensa Society

I presented "Inventors of Bridgeport" to the Southern Connecticut Mensa Society last night at a dinner at the Putnam House in Bethel. The dinner was good, despite the fact that the restaurant was jammed with people. There were 18 of us packed into a crazy sloped room (as you can see in the photo), but it turned out great. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and we talked the night away about Bridgeport's adventurous past.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Watership Down

Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams

“I’ve never cried more at the end of a book.” My thirty-year-old friend told me when he finished Watership Down. Unfortunately, I also came to this wonderful book quite late. And couldn’t believe that I had missed this children’s masterpiece. I remember seeing it on the library shelves when I was in school, picking it up, and thinking “Rabbits? No thanks.” That was the wrong decision. Very wrong. Shamefully wrong.

The adventures of Hazel, Bigwig, and Fiver are epic in the truest sense. Yes, this is a story about very real rabbits finding a new home. Yes, it is also in some ways allegorical. But more importantly this novel brings an entire world to life. Lapine vocabulary and legends flesh out the rabbits universe. This is a quest story, a war story, a founding story. Hazel becomes a figure on the scale of Ulysses, King Arthur, or Frodo Baggins. We can only hope we have the courage of this little rabbit when it comes to our own tests and challenges.

I challenge anyone to read this novel and not weep. Not that this is a tragedy. No, you will weep because this tells you everything important about life, in all its sadness and wonder. Then, perhaps you will find the real Watership Down on a map. You will realize that you can visit this holy place. And perhaps you will find yourself on a plane or in a car on your way to this rabbit Jerusalem. Of course, people will think you are crazy for doing this…people who haven’t read Watership Down.

First published at Hackwriters.