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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Mabey masterpiece, 5 July 2011
By 
Barbara Young - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
This little gem is a collection of talks given by Richard Mabey on the BBC and here turned into essays that can be carried around and read and re-read. Mabey takes the senses - 5 of them plus what he calls the map of the world. This last he tries to describe as a sense of direction that comes from pottering around in nature. He then endeavours to explain "how powerful our unassisted senses are when guided by the imagination". I am now an addict for Mabey's writing and try to purchase everything he publishes. This book was a surprise as I had heard the talks on 'iplayer', but was so pleased at the perfect production of this little volume - delightful cover, creative illustrations by Michael Kirkman and, of course, Mabey's sublime literary discourse on his subjects - as the blurb says: to marry a Romantic's view of the natural world with the meticulousness of the scientitst. Profile Books have produced a small wonder.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Scientist and the Romantic., 30 May 2011
By 
Stewart M (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
This short book - only 110 pages - contains 6 chapters, each devoted to an investigation of how the senses help us interact with and understand the natural world.

At first I had a rather unfortunate sense of déjà vu as I read the first few pages of the book. Here were the Barn Owl, the Field behind Mabey's old home and John Clare - all subjects that he has covered elsewhere. But the book soon moves into fresher areas.

In essence this book is a plea for people to understand that romance, or at least flights of imagination, is a vital part of scientific discovery. Mayey makes the case for the idea that feeling and understanding are linked, and that while we can sail too close to the wind in terms of imposing our feelings and reactions on to the natural world, the very least we can do is admit that we can never really be impartial observers.

An excellent little book on a worthwhile subject.

Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mabey's books are always a delight to read, 13 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
A collection of short meditations considering how our senses -- sight, taste, smell, sound and touch -- influence our interactions with, and attitudes towards, Nature. Mabey's books are always a delight to read, and this melange of scientific reflection and personal memories is no exception.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect balance on the tightrope between rational science and poetic sensibilities, 11 Mar 2014
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Richard Mabey is a naturalist whose analytical scientific training is married with a personality which is of a strong feeling, imaginative tone, which causes his relationship with the natural world to be strongly congruent with the sense of dynamic mystery in nature which infuses the poetry of the Romantics and Metaphysicals.

Or, as Mabey himself puts it, in a more sensuous, impassioned and precise manner:

When I'm occasionally called a `Romantic naturalist' I wonder whether it's an accusation as much as a description : the meticulous observations of the natural scientist corrupted by my overheated imagination: objectivity compromised by my Romantic insistence on making feelings part of the equation...................nature isn't a machine to be dispassionately dissected, but a community of which we, the observers, are inextricably part. And that our feelings about that community are a perfectly proper subject for reflection, because they shape our relationship with it"

For me Mabey's writings on the natural world are as perfect as they can get. Analytical observation and objective research reins in the tendency to become febrile with ineffable meaning, and the sense of the numinous ever present prevents a dissection which kills the essence it is trying to understand.

In this short and rich book, he examines the natural world through the five senses and that `sixth sense' which he calls a sense of location or place, which may be linked to a felt sense of the earth's magnetic field.

Each chapter, with its marriage of fact and, not fancy, but feeling about fact presents rich food for thoughtful visioning.

However it was the chapter on the sense of hearing, which focused on birdsong, analysing something deep and wonderful about music, its effect on soul and sense, which I found the most potent and rich of all the potent and rich chapters. And, perhaps the most delicious nugget of all was not even an observation from Mabey himself, but his quoting Richard Dawkins, who makes a stunning, wonderful bridge of science and art in his analysis and explanation between Keats' Ode to a Nightingale, and the possible effect of particular sequences of sound waves upon the brain - whether the brain of a human listener or a female nightingale :

"Taking his cue from the phrase ....
`and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense as though of hemlock I had drunk'
he suggests that the idea of a nightingale song working like a drug isn't entirely far-fetched...........Dawkins argues : ......The song is not informing the female but manipulating her. It is not so much changing what the female knows but directly changing the physiological state of her brain. It is acting like a drug' "

This short book is definitely one for the re-read and re-read again and again shelf, rich in anecdote, meaning and juicy factual nugget!

There are beautiful woodcut style black and white illustrations to accompany the text, which are as delightful and to-be-savoured as the writing itself
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The scent & sound of nature, 10 April 2013
By 
Sentinel (Essex) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
This beautifully produced and illustrated collection of little essays is like a small appetiser for the real thing: Mabey's more substantial titles. Although there is a slight attempt to provide a linking theme (scientific v romantic), the brevity of most of these essays means that this exploration doesn't go far.

The best, and longest piece, is the title piece, with the feeling that Mabey is really getting into his stride, while one of the most striking epiphanies is the notion he gets, while standing under a tree in which a bird is singing, that as it moves closer it seems as if its song is inside him, so 'he is singing', is quite magical.

These moments of insight compensate for the repetition which a fellow reviewer correctly notes within this small collection. Another plus is that the slim size of this small volume enables it to slip into a pocket quite readily, and the inclusion of a collection of blank pages at the end, may well encourage the reader to add their own observations/essay from their adventures outdoors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I only wish there was more., 14 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
A terrific little gem of a book. Mabey is a Renaissance man, skilfully negotiating poetry, anthropology, biology, ecology. He's adept, too, at drawing these infinite threads together in ways that will make you see the world anew next time you step out the door. The book was part of Radio Three's 'Essay' series, so is brief and tightly focused. It provides a great example of his work, and is a good place to start if you haven't read him before.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deep in nature, 3 May 2013
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This review is from: The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn (Hardcover)
More pourings from the master of the highest order marrying the brain and the soul. He is a class act
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The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn
The Perfumier and the Stinkhorn by Richard Mabey (Hardcover - 14 April 2011)
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