NAB, January 23, 2012 (view all comments by NAB)
David Abram's writing in Becoming Animal is a vibrant feast for the senses! Abrams offers a brilliant balance of engaging and thrilling anecdotal life-stories with intellectual and spiritual wisdom. He offers perspectives that opened up new worlds for me! With our world so cluttered with dogma, manipulated ideologies, inflated-egoism, materialism and cynicism, this book brings one closer to earth in a reveling, awakening way!
Rachel D Shaw, January 2, 2012 (view all comments by Rachel D Shaw)
This will make you think about the world in ways that would never occur to you otherwise - for example, have you ever thought about shadows being THREE-dimensional? Such thought-provoking ideas are laid out in elegant, compelling prose, so it's win-win both ways!
In Becoming Animal, Abram suggests that our disconnection from the natural world is what enables us to damage it. To re-engage our "animal" senses is to make even a walk in the park an exquisite sensory experience, and to fully inhabit our bodies is to become fully human. Inspiring!
Of the many books I have read in recent years, whether fiction or non, I cannot recall a single work written with more poetic elegance than David Abram's Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. Nearly every one of Abram's sentences shimmers with a melodious resonance that commands an unhurried pace. Abram, cultural ecologist, anthropologist, philosopher, and accomplished sleight-of-hand magician, has a rich and varied background that seems to nurture the many complementary perspectives evident in his writing. Becoming Animal explores some of the same thematic territory as his first book (1997's award-winning The Spell of the Sensuous), yet seems to have been written with deeper insight, greater cohesive focus, and more stylistic maturity.
While Abram is well aware of the pervasive and ever-accelerating unraveling of our ecosystems, it is far from being the book's locus, bearing only but the briefest of contextual mentions. Becoming Animal diverges from the rash of recent works eager to emphasize environmental degradation or offer overly simplified quick-fix, feel-good solutions, and instead offers compassionate and insightful musings on our own misplaced roles within the larger web of life. Abram relates personal tales and anecdotes that were integral to his own understanding of earthly cosmology. Abram is clearly a patient and curious observer of the animate world, often forsaking more entrenched conceptions in favor of truths discerned via his own experiential discoveries. Open-minded and humble in his knowledge, Abram even encourages the reader to make sense of what he or she themselves may have learned. "I've written this book, a spiraling series of experimental and improvisational forays, in hopes that others will try my findings against their own experience, correcting or contesting my discoveries with their own." Rare is the writer receptive to a reader's challenge of their own authorial authority.
Throughout Becoming Animal, Abram argues for a reorienting and retuning of our senses, a physical and perceptual realigning of ourselves with the natural world. Within chapters entitled "Shadow," "Wood and Stone," "Reciprocity," "Depth," "Mood," "The Speech of Things," and "Shapeshifting" (amongst others), he leads us on a meandering course through nuance and sagacity. An abundance of rich, vivid storytelling skill allows Abram to ably navigate us through to what, for many, will undoubtedly be a new way of thinking about, and engaging in, our world. Becoming Animal is a breathtaking work of both great import and timeliness. David Abram has crafted the rarest of literary gems: a sublime effort combining transcendent prose, lucid insight, and lasting consequence.
by Kirkus Reviews,
"Pure enthusiasm drives Abram to explore the yearning of our body for the larger body of Earth.... His celebratory embrace of all that surrounds him is refreshing in the extreme."
"[Abrams] offers perception-heightening insights into the causes of our disparagement of sensuous reality...and the disastrous consequences of our increasing detachment from the living world as we funnel our attention to the cyber realm." (Starred Review)
by John Berger,
"This book is like a prehistoric cave. If you have the nerve to enter it and you get used to the dark, you'll discover things about storytelling which are startling, urgent and deeply true. Things each of us once knew, but forgot when we were born into the 19th and 20th centuries. Extraordinary rediscoveries!"
by Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey,
"As with many deeply original — and radical — books, this work may startle, even provoke the reader in its electric reversal of conventional thought. Worth any provocation for the profundity of its insights, this is a portrait of the artist as a young raven, arguing, with all the subtlety of his mind, for the mindedness of the body. An exercise of uncanny imagination by a writer who has a sixth sense for the intelligence of the first five."
by Los Angeles Times,
"Abram's prose is lighted from within, happy, solid and clear. It's fun to read and helps the reader remember his or her place in the larger, luminous world."
"Abram brings the magician's sense of mystery and playful surprise to these experimental and improvisational forays...his celebratory embrace of all that surrounds him is refreshing in the extreme. The author is an inspired force who invites the neglected yet ever-present serendipities of the natural world to show themselves."
"Abram offers perception-heightening insights into the disastrous consequences of our increasing detachment from the living world as we funnel our attention to the cyber realm. He tells extraordinary tales of his encounters with wildlife from whales to ravens, and illuminates the planet's myriad forms of sentient life. In addition to writing with poetic precision about sensory experience... his analysis of shadows and life's reciprocity are phenomenal feats of observation and eloquence... he draws on his adventures as an itinerant sleight-of-hand magician and apprentice to indigenous shamans to forge an inspirited physics of being. Prodigious, transfixing, and rectifying." (starred review)
by Amory B. Lovins, Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute,
"This brave and magical book summons wild wonder to remind us who we are."
Abram (The Spell of the Sensuous) returns with a startling exploration of human entanglement with the rest of nature.
David Abram’s first book, The Spell of the Sensuous—hailed as “revolutionary” by the Los Angeles Times, as “daring and truly original” by Science—has become a classic of environmental literature. Now Abram returns with a startling exploration of our human entanglement with the rest of nature.
As the climate veers toward catastrophe, the innumerable losses cascading through the biosphere make vividly evident the need for a metamorphosis in our relation to the living land. For too long we’ve inured ourselves to the wild intelligence of our muscled flesh, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance. This book subverts that distance, drawing readers ever deeper into their animal senses in order to explore, from within, the elemental kinship between the body and the breathing Earth.
The shapeshifting of ravens, the erotic nature of gravity, the eloquence of thunder, the pleasures of being edible: all have their place in Abram’s investigation. He shows that from the awakened perspective of the human animal, awareness (or mind) is not an exclusive possession of our species but a lucid quality of the biosphere itself—a quality in which we, along with the oaks and the spiders, steadily participate.
With the audacity of its vision and the luminosity of its prose, Becoming Animal sets a new benchmark for the human appraisal of our place in the whole.
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