For the Beauty of the Earth: Birding, Opera, and Other Journeys

Thomas Urquhart

Published by Counterpoint, 2004
ISBN 10: 1593760175 / ISBN 13: 9781593760175
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Synopsis: In this day, when most personal memoirs largely devote themselves to misery and dysfunction, when the competition seems intense to have lived the most disrupted and fragmented existence imaginable, it is exhilarating to encounter a life of modesty, happiness and immeasurable stability thoroughly recounted. To have such a life grounded from its earliest days in bird watching is surprising, and entirely welcoming.

Often when we think of nature writers and naturalists we think of the rough-hewn or the rural, rugged outdoor types wrestled into epiphany by the arms of Mother Nature. Thomas Urquhart found a different path. He combines a classical education with a lifelong passion for opera, literature and art. And from his earliest days he is a devoted, devotedly amateur, naturalist.

In For the Beauty of the Earth Thomas Urquhart begins with the lives of ancestors—his Aunt Catherine, arrested while protesting what she considered the judicial murder of Sacco and Vanzetti, and many others. He takes "birding through the Renaissance," to the fields of New England, the island of Mauritius, and the Camargue in Provence. Throughout, birding provides Urquhart with his opportunities for travel, his practical education, and his passionate place in the natural world.

From Publishers Weekly: The former executive director of the Maine Audubon Society describes his most intriguing trips around the globe, his insights into the aviary world and his personal history in this amiable but disjointed memoir. Urquhart is at his most focused and persuasive when writing about nature. He celebrates exotic locations, as well as others close to home, arguing that "the countryside in which we live each day ... should be lovingly husbanded, not taken for granted." People need such everyday places "as never before," he writes, "but they are increasingly hard to find." The author’s recounting of many unusual bird sightings will be of particular interest to birders, and his account of a visit to Africa is also keenly detailed and purposeful. Unfortunately, these worthwhile moments can be rather hard to find; Urquhart’s book covers a lot of personal ground and is handicapped by uninspired editing. The author’s most intriguing comments are often relegated to footnotes, and the family history is both vague and repetitive. Urquhart’s relatives are rarely named, and readers are given little overall context for the time periods that he describes. Such needless mystery can seem almost cruel, as when the author reveals the juicy fact that his grandmother wrote a "best-selling romantic novel" yet discloses little else about her. Urquhart’s passion for the majestic world of nature has been a driving force in his life; it’s too bad that the prose expression of that passion can feel like rambling walk in the woods.
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Title: For the Beauty of the Earth: Birding, Opera,...
Publisher: Counterpoint
Publication Date: 2004
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Good

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