Being A Beast
Adventures Across the Species DivideBook - 2016
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Not everyone would choose to do what Charles Foster chose to do in his pursuit of realizing the depth of his own connection to the natural world:
• Scavenge for food with urban foxes
• Eat earthworms in a badger sett
• Face starvation with red deer
• Swim a cold English river for nights on end
• Follow swifts from Oxford to Africa (albeit through ground-travel, not air)
Foster is part scientist, part philosopher and a fully qualified veterinarian. Although he tries to eschew the type of nature writing stemming from a type of colonialism – man’s dominion over the sea, air, earth and creatures who live there - he is very quick to realize, as he is tucked into a cold, damp burrow for the night with earthworms falling disconcertingly into his mouth at intervals, that he really is “dismally suburban”.
These confessions of his own shortcomings make his writing quite human and funny, but are just as thoughtful as the observations he develops as he imitates his chosen few animals. He rarely anthropomorphizes the animals he encounters, and yet his descriptions of their habits and expressions are not cold and clinical either. For instance he explains the science behind how a fox uses the earth’s magnetic fields to hunt but describes it rather poetically: “That’s what foxes do... one spotlight is sound, and the other is magnetic, and the release is an explosive unfolding of hamstrings and about a hundred other muscles filled with blood, lymph and hunger.”
He in fact spends more time on all fours to see and smell and perceive the world as animals do – he shares facts about each species as conversationally as he does neurobiology facts (why they do what they do) and philosophical ponderings about their levels of consciousness. Being a Beast is a fascinating read for any lover of nature. Foster has a deep love of the animals he studies but is a slightly madder (in the nicest possible way) version of James Herriot.
Find Being a Beast at the Stratford Public Library or as either an e-book or e-audiobook at http://www.downloadlibrary.ca
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