Poet and essayist Purpura (On Looking) evinces great skill as a prose writer in this volume of meditations on nature and society. Her focus is wide-ranging but continually returns to the touchstones of environmental damage, violence in her local Baltimore community, and language’s role in forming consciousness. Her environmentalism encompasses climate change issues and observations of incremental but damaging assaults on plant and animal life. She has an eye for strong images, as when she skewers an artist who “casts ant colony sculptures by pouring molten aluminum into their nests.” Other strong essays include “Brief Treatise Against Irony”; “My Eagles,” which includes a comic quote from Ben Franklin on how the bald eagle “is a Bird of bad moral Character” since “he does not get his Living honestly”; and the brief but keenly observant “On Shadows: Some Investigations,” which describes how “shadows begin by leaning into the west, cinch up at noon, and by dusk reconstitute.” Purpura’s tone can vary, from Annie Dillard–like in “Study with Crape Myrtle,” or moralizing in “Metaphors Studies,” to bitter in “Scream.” The selections are linked, however, by a desire that humankind attain more humility, so as to save the planet and itself. Amid the numerous essay collections driven by concern over climate change, Purpura’s stands out for its passionate intensity. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018 Release date: 03/01/2019 Genre: Nonfiction
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