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Carnivorous Nights


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About the Author

MARGARET MITTELBACH and MICHAEL CREWDSON regularly join forces for The New York Times and other publications, employing their dry wit to reveal nature in the strangest of places. Their previous book, Wild New York, uncovered the unsung natural wonders of the city that never sleeps. They give frequent talks and lectures on wildlife, and live in Brooklyn. Alexis Rockman's artwork examines the history of how nature is portrayed, and is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and London's Saatchi Collection. He has also contributed artwork to several books, including Future Evolution, by Peter Ward, a prediction of the future of the global ecosystem. He lives and works in New York and has traveled around the world experiencing the wild firsthand. From the Hardcover edition.


What fascination would cause two sensible big-city naturalists like Mittelbach and Crewdson, collaborators on Wild New York, to pack their bags and set off for the remote wilds of Tasmania in search of an extinct carnivorous marsupial? While researching horseshoe crab behavior at the American Museum of Natural History library, the pair happened to become enamored with an exhibit of a Tasmanian tiger (which really resembles a canine rather than a feline). Their interest was further piqued when they learned of the rarity of specimens, even in museums. A living Tasmanian tiger hasn't been seen since the 1930s, and in 1986 it was officially declared extinct. Despite the odds of finding one alive today, the allure was too much, and the authors, along with artist Rockman, whose work has appeared in the Guggenheim Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, set off on a thrilling adventure that will pull the reader in. They discover an island inhabited by unusual creatures (Tasmanian devils, flightless parrots) and equally intriguing humans (scientists trying to clone the tiger, hunters). While supplementing more scientific books on this topic (e.g., David Owen's Tasmanian Tiger: The Tragic Tale of How the World Lost Its Most Mysterious Predator), this is also an irresistible work of armchair travel, not to be missed. Highly recommended for both natural history and travel collections, especially where Wild New York was popular.-Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Mittelbach and Crewdson (coauthors of Wild New York) use the titular beast as an excuse for an engaging if feckless conservationist road trip through Tasmania. A marsupial predator known for its 120-degree gape, the tiger is presumed extinct, but unverified sightings have anchored it on cryptozoologists' Most Wanted lists. The authors stake out likely haunts, talk to tiger investigators and skeptics, take in the pop-culture mania that has made the tiger Tasmania's unofficial mascot and visit a lab that's trying to clone the animal from a pickled 139-year-old specimen. The tiger hunt is often sidetracked to observe wallabies; giant crayfish; a variety of gross, menacing bugs; and the celebrated Tasmanian devil, a voracious marsupial scavenger whose guttural, demonic screaming is a combination of rabid dog and Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Tasmanian fauna is not especially charismatic and often appears as roadkill, which carpets the island's blacktops and forms an intrusive narrative motif. Indeed, the most exotic creature is the Byronic, usually stoned artist Alexis Rockman, who accompanied the authors and supplies ghostly illustrations done in such impeccably authentic media as wombat fecal matter and acrylic polymer on paper. His antics up the book's gonzo factor. and the authors' lively writing will keep readers' spirits high. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"A transfusion of youthful energy is delivered in this winning book by a pair of zany New York wildlife journalists."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Informed, colorful, often comical . . . hugely readable."
-San Francisco Chronicle "A rollicking safari . . . informative and entertaining."
-The Oregonian (Portland) "An adventure in extreme sleuthing . . . The true beauty of this volume is its depiction of the Tasmanian landscape in the raw. . . . Kudos are due the authors for the generous pace of their gaze [and] hilarious introspection."
-Los Angeles Times "A thrilling adventure . . . an irresistible work of armchair travel, not to be missed. Highly recommended."
-Library Journal (starred review) "A wonderful romp, part science and part Bill Bryson."

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