The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

The Flamingo's Smile: Reflections in Natural History

Synopsis

"His fourth volume of imaginative, witty essays...equals Gould's prize-winning The Panda's Thumb and The Mismeasure of Man".--Publisher's Weekly. Photographs.

Excerpt

In the medieval glass of Canterbury Cathedral, an angel appears to the sleeping wise men and warns them to go straight home, and not return to Herod. Below, the corresponding event from the Old Testament teaches the faithful that each moment of Jesus' life replays a piece of the past and that God has put meaning into time—Lot turns round and his wife becomes a pillar of salt (the white glass forming a striking contrast with the glittering colors that surround her). the common theme of both incidents: don't look back.

The Flamingo's Smile is my fourth volume of essays from monthly columns in Natural History Magazine; it also contains my hundredth contribution to a genre that I once considered both more ephemeral and impossible to sustain. Thus, I will also break Lot's injunction, hope for a sweeter fate, and look back upon the previous volumes.

One brand of Scotch often graces New Yorker back covers with its claim that Angus Mac-somebody-or-other (and ancestors of that ilk) have been throwing the caber on the same field since 1367, give or take a few years. "Some things never change," the bottom line (literally) proclaims. Some things better change (however difficult under punctuated equilibrium), if only to allay boredom, but fundamental themes (like a successful blend) should revel in persistence. If my volumes work at all, they owe their reputation to coherence supplied by the common theme of evolutionary . . .

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