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Vesper Flights
by Helen MacDonald




Overview -

From the New York Times bestselling author of H is for Hawk and winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, comes a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

Animals don't exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

In Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds' nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

By one of this century's most important and insightful nature writers, Vesper Flights is a captivating and foundational book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make sense of the world around us.

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More About Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald

 
 
 

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of H is for Hawk and winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction, comes a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

Animals don't exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

In Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds' nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

By one of this century's most important and insightful nature writers, Vesper Flights is a captivating and foundational book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make sense of the world around us.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802128812
  • ISBN-10: 0802128815
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • Publish Date: August 2020
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.85 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Vesper Flights

In her follow-up to 2015’s H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald examines intersections—of the natural world and the global one, of the scientific and the spiritual, of human and animal, of the modern world and the ancient, enduring one. In Vesper Flights, Macdonald’s literary pupil contracts and dilates over and over. An avid observer of minute detail, she makes an exact science of drawing a personal moment into tight focus before whooshing out to take a view so wide it engulfs the entire present. 

Macdonald's bite-size essays offer meditations on home, placelessness, the refugee crisis and climate change, all projected through animals who appear in dual form: as their biological selves, examined, explained and marveled at; and their ancient, archetypal manifestations. For every paragraph detailing the flight instincts of swifts, there is another ruminating on the lessons humans derive from these creatures. The essay “Deer in Headlights” vibrates with dark, forested strangeness. Touching on the mystical meaning of deer in a distant time, the unfortunate but ordinary event of a car crash with a deer is transmuted into something terrible and Dionysian. The entire essay becomes shot through with a violent divinity, nodding to the darker feelings that feather around the edges of our emotions surrounding these accidents.

These animal depictions, two-sided and meditative, act as a relational vehicle to carry us through the shock of the Anthropocene, where we’ve come to think of animals as mere creatures. Macdonald espouses a more holistic approach to connecting with animals—one that marries natural science to the heartfelt stirrings that humans have long felt in a furred or feathered presence. “Animals don’t exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done,” she writes, “and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.”

 

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