Posted by Richard Conniff on May 5, 2009
Sierra Magazine asked me to describe some of the authors who influenced my new book. Here’s what I came up with:
Years ago, a magazine sent me to Jersey in the Channel Islands to interview Gerald Durrell, the zookeeper and pioneer in the captive breeding of endangered species. Durrell was the author of one of my favorite books, My Family and Other Animals, the classic account of his obsession with wildlife growing up in an eccentric British family on the Mediterranean island of Corfu.
The interview started at 10 a.m., with tumblers of whiskey the size of swimming pools, and Durrell waxing romantic on the possibilities of being reincarnated as a fur seal: “One would swim a thousand miles to marry a female fur seal! They look as if they’ve been made out of molten gold.” In person and in print, Durrell reminded me that it’s possible to write about the natural word and still have fun, and also that the best fun comes from exploring the often quirky connection between people and animals.
In many of my favorite books, the boundaries slip away, as they should, and readers find themselves cast loose in the animal world. The lines of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are still sometimes run through my head as I’m falling asleep: “That night in Max’s room a forest grew and grew and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.” A similar thrill of crossing over also animates T.H. White’s The Sword and The Stone, where Merlin turns a boy named Wart into a fish and then a bird to give him the wisdom he will need to become King Arthur.
White also introduces modern readers to the fanciful creatures that delighted the medieval imagination (and mine) in The Book of Beasts, his translation of a twelfth-century bestiary. The bison-like bonnacon, for instance, had the magical power to escape predators with a three-acre fart that set trees on fire. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Richard Conniff on April 21, 2009
Here’s a review of my new book, sent back from a pamacari on the Amazon by Kraig Becker at The Adventure Blog:
As I noted last week, traveling is a perfect time for catching up on your reading. Long flights and layovers in spartan airports with little to do, makes you appreciate a good book all the more. And when heading to South America, I just had to take along a book I had received a few days before departing. I mean, it’s called Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff. How could I possibly leave that behind when I was headed to the Amazon? Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Richard Conniff on April 13, 2009
My new book comes out in a few weeks, on May 4, and the Hartford Courant just ran an interview about it.
‘Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time’ By Richard Conniff
By DAVE HOLAHAN
Special to The Courant
April 12, 2009
Richard Conniff began his writing career in 1969 modestly enough, as a teenager penning obituaries for a small New Jersey newspaper. Later, after college and gainfully unemployed, he pitched a story about the New Jersey “state bird,” the salt marsh mosquito, to a local magazine.
It was published, and the rest, as they say, is natural history.
Conniff, of Old Lyme, quickly moved up the journalistic food chain, stalking and writing about larger, sexier and ever more exotic wildlife for magazines such as Smithsonian and National Geographic. He has run with cheetahs in the Serengeti, hung out with leopards in Botswana, even confronted feral thrips and springtails in Hartford’s Keney Park, where he helped to identify an astonishing 1,369 species (including a bald eagle) in a frenetic 24-hour “BioBlitz.”
He won’t demur if asked to track lemurs in Madagascar, where 70 species of the prosimian are. He even took a safari on his own forehead to locate and analyze a thriving population of indigenous follicle mites.
”Swimming With Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff With Animals” is a collection of 23 of Conniff’s magazine articles. His eighth book is an engaging account of his adventures. The author’s prose is eminently digestible, leavened with civilized wit and a well-developed sense of irony. Conniff doesn’t preach or devolve into scientific arcana as he explores the viciousness of humming birds Read the rest of this entry »
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