In 1981 David Quammen began what might be every freelance writer's dream: a monthly column for Outside magazine in which he was given free rein to write about anything that interested him in the natural world. His column was called "Natural Acts," and for the next fifteen years he delighted Outside's readers with his fascinating ruminations on the world around us. The Boilerplate Rhino brings together twenty-six of Quammen's most thoughtful and engaging essays from that column, none previously printed in any of his earlier books.
In lucid, penetrating, and often quirkily idiosyncratic prose, David Quammen takes his readers with him as he explores the world. His travels lead him to rattlesnake handlers in Texas; a lizard specialist in Baja; the dinosaur museum in Jordan, Montana; and halfway across Indonesia in search of the perfect Durian fruit. He ponders the history of nutmeg in the southern Moluccas, meditates on bioluminescent beetles while soaking in the waters of the Amazon, and delivers "The Dope on Eggs" from a chicken ranch near his hometown in Montana.
Quammen's travels are always jumping-off points to explore the rich and sometimes horrifying tension between humankind and the natural world, in all its complexity and ambivalence. Rattlesnake hunting becomes an occasion to meditate on certain dark veins of human character that remain constant amid a world of change. An encounter with a spider in Guam becomes an occasion to examine innate fears and affinities. In these essays it becomes impossible to look outward without at the same time looking inward. The result is another irrepressible assortment of ideas to explore, conundrums to contemplate, and wondrous creatures to behold -- from the acclaimed author of Wild Thoughts from Wild Places and the award-winning The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions....Continua