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Barbara Hurd’s Listening to the Savage weaves rich explorations of science, history, mythology, literature, and music. The listening of the book delineates and champions a kind of attentiveness to what is not easily heard and is written in language that is as precise as it is poetic, providing original ways of engagement in the natural world.
As in Hurd’s other books, the previously unknown or the barely known become less mysterious but still retain the quality of mystery. The book presumes that nature is a mix of the chaotic and the wondrous. It addresses worry and advocacy—worry about our carelessness that can destroy the balance of that mix and a cry for us to pay more attention to humanity’s relationship to natural history.
Listen, be alert, it says without hectoring. Rivers, ferns, streams, birds all have a life that is delicate and worth preserving. Barbara Hurd is one of our nest environmental writers, and this book will please the choir and persuade those on the ambivalent edge.
"The joy of Hurd’s book derives, in part, from the intimacy of the whole enterprise. Hurd’s writing is, at times, so personal and meditative that readers may feel as if they’re eavesdropping, recipients of a secret knowledge. Equally winning is her constant looping back and forth between the natural terrain she observes and the parallels to her own life – and ours – in the 21st century."
— Joan Silverman, Portland Press Herald
"Scant but intense... listen attentively to the poetic silences of this lovely work"
— Kristen Rabe, Foreword Reviews
“As with few other nature writers—a small handful of the singing poets, like Mary Oliver and W. S. Merwin—one enters the brilliant desert, blue mountain, what-have-you—with verve and hunger, when Barbara Hurd is the guide.”
— Rick Bass
“Barbara Hurd stalks the wisdom that comes from deep and attentive listening. Whether she’s engaging in rousing conversation with Thoreau or working to hear past the commonplace de nition of musical harmony and into complex registers of perception, her drive is always to ‘stitch bits of evidence together into some narrative whole that might enlarge the picture, make the drama more true.’ Part lyrical eld guide, part writer’s journal, these generous, meditative essays court ‘finer gradations, clearer distinctions, and better discernment.’”
— Lia Purpura, author of Rough Likeness