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December 13, 2007

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

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Loren Eiseley -anthropologist and author of The Immense Journey

Loren Eiseley (1907-1977) was one of our most  highly respected anthropologists. He was also, perhaps, one of our greatest writers about nature, evolution, and man's place in the universe. The quote above is from what I consider to be his great masterpiece, The Immense Journey.

I read Eiseley more for his poetic insights than for hard science- he's one of our foremost masters of what is known as the "hidden essay"-poetic essay style, called the "hidden essay," which he used this to explain complex scientific ideas, such as human evolution, to the general public. Among his other books are  Darwin's Century, The Unexpected Universe, The Night Country, and the memoir All the Strange Hours.

Here's what one reviewer wrote recently : "I first encountered Loren Eiseley's The Immense Journey by accident in a university's library stacks. I took it down from the shelf and, after glancing at the table of contents, started to read one of the essays. Three hours later I realized that I was still standing in the same place and had read through almost half the book. I had never encountered writing like this before. Eiseley writes about nature with the eyes of a haunted poet who sees the natural world slipping away even as we view it. It is hard to convey to one who hasn't read any of this just what makes his writing so special. He is a master of language. His 'take' on what he observes in nature is original and fresh. The structure of his essays, like arguments in the form of stories, progressing from some general observation to an unexpected conclusion - please and surprise the reader." Doug Vaughn (Washington, DC).

Immense Journey

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