In Flight Maps, essayist Jennifer Price methodically accounts
for the fall of the passenger pigeon, the rise of the pink lawn
flamingo, the propagation of nature-themed mall stores, and what
all this has to do with modern humanity's relationship to nature.
The book began as an award-winning doctoral dissertation at Yale,
now repackaged for the mainstream reader. Flight Maps is a long,
scholarly riff on how nature has evolved into a place apart.
We fumble to revisit and recapture it, with everything from Toyota
4Runners to Rainforest Crunch candy.
Price's observations center around how our actions, our beliefs,
and--especially--our purchases betray an idealized but conflicted
view of nature: it's an undiluted source of "realness,"
but also a remote and abstract ideal, often mangled by our embrace.
Flight Maps traces these attitudes back to 19th-century America,
recounting the extinction of passenger pigeons and the faltering
first steps of early conservation groups. This is a superb writing
about the Passenger Pigeon, filled with details about how its
historical extinction affected all of us then and still today.
The book's second half, covers the present, finding nature's
place in the mall. Price's lightly jaded sense of humor, combined
with her academic rigor, perfectly skewers the likes of Northern
Exposure's $5,000-a-day moose and much more.--Paul Hughes (edited