Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley

This contemplative and sometimes dreamlike book, a combination of nature writing, spirituality, and science writing, was first published in 1946. It is the work of Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist with an extensive career. Eiseley did a great deal of fieldwork, as can be expected, and held several academic posts, including head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. I read the 1957 edition published by Random House.

Eiseley has a great ability of starting each chapter with a compelling statement. Here are three examples:

“I am middle-aged now, but in the autumn I always seek for it again hopefully” (p. 195).
“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water” (p. 15).
“Today, as never before, the sky is menacing” (p. 143).

Several of the chapters kept me engaged from this first sentence, but I lost focus and interest in others. The language found here is definitely of an earlier period and will appeal greatly to some, but not all. Eiseley’s chapters on the human brain and evolution I found particularly difficult to wade through. I am happy for having read the book, however, because two chapters near the end are simply great. These chapters are “The Judgment of the Birds” and “The Bird and the Machine.”

In “The Bird and the Machine,” definitely my favorite, Eiseley describes capturing a sparrow hawk: “a fine young male in the prime of life” (p. 189). The hawk is one of a pair, but due to a violent struggle between Eiseley and the birds, he is not able to capture the female. Eiseley captures the bird for a zoo, a task he is charged with and explains as “one of those reciprocal matters in which science involves itself” (p. 186). The day following the capture, Eiseley decides to take a look at the bird in the box. He writes, “I could feel his heart pound under the feathers but he only looked beyond me and up” (p. 191).

Eiseley makes a decision, after noticing how the hawk is gazing into the sky, that he will release him. He does so and shortly after hears a commotion as the hawk joins his companion in cries of happiness. The female was likely waiting for her mate in the shadows of a tree throughout the night. The way this event is described is magical and was like a treasure after toughing it out in the middle of the book. It really makes you think about keeping birds in cages and pulling them out of their natural habitat for our pleasure and entertainment.


At 18.9.09 , Blogger Jeane said...

I have read quite a few books about hawks and falconry- I think I would like that bit. Are you still around? Haven't seen any new books on your blog lately... just wondering.

At 20.9.09 , Blogger stacy said...

Hi Jeane, I am still around, but taking a break and determining if I want to continue my blog or not. I was involved with a summer reading program at my library, so I did not post reviews here at that time. I also just have a million things going on. Thank you very much for stopping by. Take care, Stacy

At 24.11.09 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 18.2.10 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ 謝謝你的分享,祝你生活永遠多彩多姿!........................................

At 10.3.10 , Anonymous Anonymous said...



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