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Last of the Curlews

Bodsworth, Fred

189 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1887178007 / ISBN 13: 9781887178006
Published by Counterpoint, Washington, D.C., U.S.A., 1995
Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
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A clean, unmarked copy with a tight binding. 174 pages. Inscribed by author. April SALE -- Prices shown are 20% off throughout the month. Bookseller Inventory # 118105

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Last of the Curlews

Publisher: Counterpoint, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1995

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Inscribed By Author

About this title


"The story of this migration is magnificent, informative, breathtaking and exotic". Los Angeles Times

More than three million readers around the world have been touched by this conservation classic, the story of a solitary Eskimo curlew's last perilous migration and search for a mate. The lone survivor comes to stand for the entirety of a lost species.


Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin found this slim 1955 novel on a shelf in the house of friends, and, struck with the "plain, succinct evocation and beauty" of Fred Bodsworth's writing, suggested its reissue to a publisher. This is a quick, elegant, devastating read. The Eskimo curlew was a species of shorebird that migrated (and perhaps, in extremely small numbers, still migrates) south from arctic Canada every fall, in a flight that took it eastward across Canada, and then, after feeding, south over the Atlantic to South America--this latter journey nearly 2,500 miles of nonstop flight. The curlew was almost unique among shorebirds for its ability to make this grueling passage.

Bodsworth, a respected ornithologist, makes us care about his fictional bird protagonist--a lone curlew in search of a mate--while still cautiously riding the line between description and anthropomorphism. Of his curlew preparing for a mate, he writes: "He waited within the borders of his territory, flying in tightening circles and calling excitedly as the other bird came nearer. The female was coming. The three empty summers that the male had waited vainly and alone on his breeding territory were a vague, tormenting memory, now almost lost in a brain so keenly keyed to instinctive responses that there was little capacity for conscious thought or memory."

The demise of this species at the hands of hunters and hungry consumers was so rapid and thorough that the "millions that darkened the sky" in Newfoundland in the 1870s during their annual migration were reduced to only a few lone fliers by the 1890s. An afterword by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann and line drawings by Abigail Rorer add context to this remarkable book. --Maria Dolan

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