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Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger Paperback – 19 Jan 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (19 Jan. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841957437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841957432
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The quixotic quest at the heart of Carnivorous Nights is more than just endearing and engrossing, it's inspiring." JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER "Alexis Rockman and the thylacine are two of the most fascinating critters that have ever prowled the woods of Tasmania or the galleries and basketball courts of New York. Put them together, and you're off on a roaring adventure." DAVID QUAMMEN author of The Song of the Dodo: Biogeography in the age of extinctions"

About the Author

Naturalists MARGARET MITTELBACH and MICHAEL CREWDSON have joined forces on numerous articles for the New York Times and other publications, employing their dry wit and off-kilter sensibilities to reveal nature in the strangest places. Their previous book, Wild New York, uncovered the city's unsung wonders. They give frequent talks and lectures, and live in Brooklyn.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By I. R. Cragg on 31 May 2006
Format: Paperback
Everybody knows the bare essentials of Australian wildlife- the kangaroo, koala, cockatoo and so on. But far more interesting is the tale of the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger, the last known specimen of which died in a zoo seventy years ago. This book is the story of three Americans who went to Tasmania to try to track down the Thylacine and its devotees. Part travelogue, part natural history, it's also a tribute to the people of Tasmania, who generally come out as far more wily and well-adjusted than the Manhattanite authors. That said, the feeling for the ecology of Tasmania is genuine, as is the sense that as with any part of the world, environmental issues are never solved easily and to everybody's satisfaction, and sometimes there isn't a happy ending.
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Format: Paperback
This beautifully written and informative book take the reader on a tour of Tasmania, themed around a 'search' for the (possibly) extinct 'Thylacinus cynocephalus' or 'Tasmanian Tiger'. The tragic tale of its hunting to (again, possible) extinction in the early 20th century is gradually unfolded, not in any heavily didactic manner, but as part of the narrative and record of encounters with interesting creatures (human and otherwise) met along the way.

At the same time, other flora and fauna are effortlessly included, sneaking past this reader's fairly tepid interest in natural history, by dint of weaving them into the travelogue as integral parts of a wider quest. As stated, the writing is what I'd describe as 'effortless' or, putting it another way, always a pleasure to read, and by the end I found I'd learned (and recalled!) a great deal of Australian history and ecology. I also found myself involved with the fate of the poor Tiger and committed to the search for survivors (if any) and their conservation.

Interestingly, the two authors choose to make themselves pretty much ciphers in the narrative, far more detail being given about their companions and those they meet. Somehow this just seems right and in keeping with the spirit of the book.

The tale told is melancholic in itself - a record of mankind's selfish indifference to the other species it is supposed to share the world with; but there are also grounds for hope recounted here, and due prominence given to the good people met. The 'expedition artist's many illustrations also greatly add to the charm of the book.

In short: thoroughly recommended to both the ecologically interested and general reader alike.
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Format: Paperback
As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to read it - as a native Tasmanian I love reading books that have a familiar setting as they are sadly few and far between. Add the bonus of finding out more about one of Tasmania's icons, the Tasmanian Tiger and I was really looking forward to this.

Strangely, the book is written in first person plural - which wouldn't have been so bad but for the references to things that 'we' did such as 'we dreamed' and 'we imagined'. In fact, it's so vague that it's only by doing some research outside the book that I managed to find out who the 'we' actually were. Unfortunately this strange narrative wasn't the only issue I had - the other characters were actually quite wanky - their jokes and attempts at being clever were quite flat, and their idea that they would actually 'rediscover' a species that vanished nearly 80 years ago in a few short weeks was just plain weird Sure, I understand that they wanted to be positive, but it was just a bit too much.

What I did enjoy was the investigation into Tasmanian wildlife, the story of the demise of the Tasmanian Tiger and the very Tasmanian people that they met along the way. The author did an excellent job of portraying truthfully the openness and strange habits of the people of Tasmania, without being condescending. The book also contains pictures created by Alexis, which he made with various organic materials he picked up along the way which was an added bonus.

Although this book had some faults, and did start to drag a little in the middle, I think what made it for me was the familiarity of the places, the people, and the overall relaxed atmosphere of Tasmania. I think it would also make an interesting read for non-natives - after all, where else in the world would you find an animal with a duck bill, that lives underwater, lays eggs in it's pouch and has poisonous spurs on its hind legs, for which there is no anti-venom?
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