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Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitantsby Robert Sullivan
Synopses & Reviews
Thoreau went to Walden Pond to live simply in the wild and contemplate his own place in the world by observing nature. Robert Sullivan went to a disused, garbage-filled little alley in lower Manhattan to contemplate the city and its lesser-known inhabitants — by observing the rat.
Rats live in the world precisely where humans do; they survive on the effluvia of human society; they eat our garbage. While dispensing gruesomely fascinating rat facts and strangely entertaining rat-stories — everyone has one, it turns out — Sullivan gets to know not just the beast but its friends and foes: the exterminators, the sanitation workers, the agitators and activists who have played their part in the centuries-old war between human city dweller and wild city rat. With a notebook and night-vision gear, he sits nightly in the streamlike flow of garbage and searches for fabled rat-kings, sets out to trap a rat, and eventually travels to the Midwest to learn about rats in Chicago, Milwaukee, and other cities of America. With tales of rat fights in the Gangs of New York era and stories of Harlem rent strike leaders who used rats to win tenants basic rights, Sullivan looks deeper and deeper into the largely unrecorded history of the city and its masses — its herd-of-rats-like mob. Funny, wise, sometimes disgusting but always compulsively readable, Rats earns its unlikely place alongside the great classics of nature writing.
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"Engaging.a lively, informative compendium of facts, theories, and musings." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Fascinating." Vanity Fair
"An immensely lively, enjoyable, learned, witty and, yes, appealing book... [Sullivan] has set up his shop at the intersection of science and belles-lettres, nature reporting and urbanism, and manages it all beautifully." Phillip Lopate, The Washington Post
"In this excellent narrative, Sullivan uses the brown rat as the vehicle for a labyrinthine history of the Big Apple....This book is a must pickup for every city dweller, even if you'll feel like you need to wash your hands when you put it down." Publishers Weekly
"Sullivan tells all, writing, in prose worthy of Joseph Mitchell, a sort of Up in the Old Rat Hole: skittering, scurrying, terrific natural history." Kirkus Reviews
"[H]ighly enjoyable....Well written and fun to read, this book has only one drawback: a lack of more detailed information on rat biology." Library Journal
"Robert Sullivan sees the rat as much more than a pest. For him, the rat is the New Yorker par excellence, the plucky immigrant who set foot in Manhattan just about the time of the American Revolution and, by guile and persistence, put down roots and prospered." William Grimes, The New York Times
"Sullivan never falls in love with his subject the way he did in his book on the Meadowlands — rats are rats, after all — but he does persuade us that rats are 'our mirror species, reversed but similar, thriving or suffering in the very cities where we do the same." The New Yorker
"Rats is the rare book that both delights and makes your skin crawl. Its vision of urban issues is insightful, entertaining and — yes — a little bit creepy." Mark Kurlansky
"This is a wonderful book about the despised creatures with whom New Yorkers share their city. Rats have been hunted down here for centuries, but remain unvanquished. As Mr. Sullivan reminds us — in detailed, graceful prose — they are as much a part of the city's history as any part of its human alloy. One thing is certain: after reading this book you will understand much more about that history, and never look at a rat in the same way again." Pete Hamill
The New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback with an all-new afterword by the author.
Love them or loathe them, rats are here to stay-they are city dwellers as much as (or more than) we are, surviving on the effluvia of our society. In Rats, the critically acclaimed bestseller, Robert Sullivan spends a year investigating a rat-infested alley just a few blocks away from Wall Street. Sullivan gets to know not just the beast but its friends and foes: the exterminators, the sanitation workers, the agitators and activists who have played their part in the centuries-old war between human city dweller and wild city rat. Sullivan looks deep into the largely unrecorded history of the city and its masses — its herds-of-rats-like mob. Funny, wise, sometimes disgusting but always compulsively readable, Rats earns its unlikely place alongside the great classics of nature writing.
Prepare to be disgusted, amazed, shocked (and informed) by the astonishing and mysterious creature that has annoyed humanity for centuries:
Able to claw straight up a brick wall, squeeze through a pipe the width of a quarter, and gnaw through iron and concrete, rats are also revealed in this fascinating book to be incredibly intelligent and capable of compassion. Weaving together science, history, culture, and folklore, award-winning writer Albert Marrin offers a look at rats that goes from the curious to repulsive, horrifying to comic, fearsome to inspiring. Arresting black-and-white scratchboard illustrations with bold red accents add visual punch to this study of a creature that has annoyed, disgusted, nourished, and intrigued its human neighbors for centuries.
* "[A] lively and informative overview of the history and behavior of the widely encountered rodent.... It's a different sort of discussion... for this well-known historian and biographer and one that he has clearly enjoyed, as will a wide variety of nonfiction readers and animal fans. There's a bibliography of adult sources and children's nonfiction as well as a listing of literary works featuring rats."
and#151;School Library Journal, starred review
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Includes bibliography, further reading list, and a list of rats in literature
About the Author
Robert Sullivan is the author of The Meadowlands and A Whale Hunt, both New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship. A contributing editor to Vogue, he is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker. His work has also appeared in Condé Nast Traveler and the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
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