For the Beauty of the Earth: Birding, Opera and Other Journeys
The former executive director of the Maine Audubon Society describes his most intriguing trips around the globe, his insights into the aviary world and his personal history in this amiable but disjointed memoir. Urquhart is at his most focused and persuasive when writing about nature. He celebrates exotic locations, as well as others close to home, arguing that""the countryside in which we live each day ... should be lovingly husbanded, not taken for granted."" People need such everyday places""as never before,"" he writes,""but they are increasingly hard to find."" The author's recounting of many unusual bird sightings will be of particular interest to birders, and his account of a visit to Africa is also keenly detailed and purposeful. Unfortunately, these worthwhile moments can be rather hard to find; Urquhart's book covers a lot of personal ground and is handicapped by uninspired editing. The author's most intriguing comments are often relegated to footnotes, and the family history is both vague and repetitive. Urquhart's relatives are rarely named, and readers are given little overall context for the time periods that he describes. Such needless mystery can seem almost cruel, as when the author reveals the juicy fact that his grandmother wrote a""best-selling romantic novel"" yet discloses little else about her. Urquhart's passion for the majestic world of nature has been a driving force in his life; it's too bad that the prose expression of that passion can feel like rambling walk in the woods.