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Pregnant Bears and Crawdad Eyes: Excursions and Encounters in Animal Worlds.

Pregnant Bears and Crawdad Eyes: Excursions and Encounters in Animal Worlds, by Paul Schullery. The Mountaineers, 306 2nd Ave. West, Seattle, WA 98119 (1991). Drawings, 186 pp. Hardcover, $18.95; softcover, $12.95.

In the beginning of this book, Schullery quotes the famous Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz who wrote, "I spent the summer traveling: I got halfway across my back yard." This book of animal stories is also a book of Schullery stories-a book in which an honest scientist takes more delight in discovering what he doesn't know than in telling us what he does. Unlike many sentimental environmentalists or cocksure exploiters, Schullery finds no shame, even as a scientist, in saying, 'I don't really expect ever to fully understand my relationship with wildlife."

This kind of humility makes him a trustworthy guide to the most common wildlife-chickadees, crawdads, ants, mayflies, and minnows. By banishing the self-centered romanticism that humanizes animals, Schullery makes the familiar strange again. Finding himself in the midst of a sudden hatch of millions of mayflies, he meditates on how nature is not neat and tidy and reasonable as humans pretend, but rather produces sudden chaotic "biological storms."

He also teaches us, often with gentle humor, how strange the human animal is. Observing the crawdad's ability to see forward and backward with its stalked eyes, he concludes, "I'm just as glad to be an animal that can avoid knowing too much about what's after me, by turning around and running like hell.'

This is a book in which each short essay will cause the reader to stop between pieces for a long meditation, perhaps as much to extend the short pleasure of the book as to ponder the questions that expand a backyard into a universe.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Forests
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:290
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