Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History

Bringing Back the Dodo: Lessons in Natural and Unnatural History

by Wayne Grady




This is a strikingly thought-provoking book about how the forces of evolution and extinction have shaped the living world, and the part that humans play therein. These elegant and penetrating essays speak to some of our most fundamental questions about the human and animal worlds, and confirm Grady’s standing as one of our foremost literary science writers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771035050
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Wayne Grady has written eight books of non-fiction, including the bestseller Tree: A Life Story, written with David Suzuki. He is also a prolific magazine writer and French to English translator.

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Bringing Back The Dodo

By Wayne Grady

Random House

Wayne Grady
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0771035047

Chapter One

First Words

Five years ago, James Little, explore magazine's intrepid editor, called and asked me to write a regular column for his publication. What he had in mind, he said, was for me to be "the Canadian David Quammen," the American naturalist who for many years wrote a natural-history column for Outside magazine. I was a bit taken aback by this, as I'd always thought of myself as the Canadian John McPhee, but adaptability is life, and so I took it on. I'm very glad I did, for writing the column got me thinking about human beings as a species in ways I hadn't thought of before. The idea was to provide a natural history slant on contemporary life; every two months, I was to look at what was happening in the world around us from the point of view of an amateur naturalist. The column was called "Biologic," and I eventually wrote fifteen of them, each about twenty-five hundred words in length. Long for a column, but it was good to have enough room to follow various unravelled threads and to end up, one hoped, with a tidy skein of thought. James gave me free range to explore as wide a swath of scientific, natural, and human foibles as I chose. He suggested general ideas for some of the columns, and readers wrote or e-mailed in with anecdotes that sparked others, and over the two and a half years of Biologic's lifethe columns evolved into a unified, though eclectic, collection of essays.

Well, nascent essays. Although there is a school of thought that maintains the publication of a collection of columns ought to be simple reprintings of the original columns, presenting them exactly as they were published, warts, dated references, factual errors and all, I do not attend that school. Columns are not essays. They are subject to specific, often passing, fancies; they are written to firm, often pressing, deadlines; and they are squeezed into iron-clad, often restrictive, lengths. Essays require a somewhat more relaxed environment in which to thrive. In this book, like a conscientious gardener, I have dug the columns from their temporary seed beds -- the pages of explore -- and transplanted them into more permanent perennial beds. In many cases I have added information, updated time-sensitive references, written new paragraphs, and, in two cases, entire essays ("Atwood and McKibben" is an expansion of a review I wrote for the Ottawa Citizen of Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake, and "Send in the Clones" dovetails some of the ideas expressed in the previous essays). I have corrected factual errors wherever I (or others) have found them, expanded several of the essays beyond their original scope, deepened them, and generally tried to make them reflect the maturer thoughts of a writer who has had the time and tranquility to mull over the ideas worried at in the columns. The result, I hope, is a book of connected essays with a unified theme and a single, sustained voice.

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