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Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tigerby Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson
Synopses & Reviews
Packing an off-kilter sense of humor and keen scientific minds, authors Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson take off with renowned artist Alexis Rockman on a postmodern safari. Their mission? Tracking down the elusive Tasmanian tiger. This mysterious, striped predator was once the world's largest carnivorous marsupial. It had a pouch like a kangaroo and a jaw that opened impossibly wide to reveal terrifying choppers. Tragically, this rare and powerful animal was hunted into extinction in the early part of the twentieth century. Or was it?
Journeying first to the Australian mainland and then south to the wild island of Tasmania, these young naturalists brave a series of bizarre misadventures and uproarious wildlife encounters in their obsessive search for the long-lost beast.
From an ancient cave featuring an aboriginal painting of the tiger to a lab in Sydney where maverick scientists are trying to resurrect the animal through cloning, this intrepid trio comes face-to-face with blood-sucking land leeches and venomous bull ants, a misbehaving wallaby who invades their motel room, and a crew of flesh-eating, bone-crunching Tasmanian devils gorging on roadkill.
They bond with trappers, bushwackers, and wildlife experts who refuse to abandon the tiger hunt, despite the paucity of evidence. Sifting through local myths, bar-room banter, and historical accounts, these environmental detectives sweep readers into a world where platypus swim, kangaroos roam, and a large predator with a pouch was — or perhaps still is — queen of the jungle.
Filled with Alexis Rockman's stunning drawings of flora and fauna — made from soil, wombat scat, and the artist's own blood — Carnivorous Nights is a hip and hilarious account of an unhinged safari, as well as a fascinating portrayal of a wildly unique part of the world.
"Mittelbach and Crewdson (coauthors of Wild New York) use the titular beast as an excuse for an engaging if feckless conservationist road trip through Tasmania. A marsupial predator known for its 120-degree gape, the tiger is presumed extinct, but unverified sightings have anchored it on cryptozoologists' Most Wanted lists. The authors stake out likely haunts, talk to tiger investigators and skeptics, take in the pop-culture mania that has made the tiger Tasmania's unofficial mascot and visit a lab that's trying to clone the animal from a pickled 139-year-old specimen. The tiger hunt is often sidetracked to observe wallabies; giant crayfish; a variety of gross, menacing bugs; and the celebrated Tasmanian devil, a voracious marsupial scavenger whose 'guttural, demonic screaming' is 'a combination of rabid dog and Linda Blair in The Exorcist.' Tasmanian fauna is not especially charismatic and often appears as roadkill, which carpets the island's blacktops and forms an intrusive narrative motif. Indeed, the most exotic creature is the Byronic, usually stoned artist Alexis Rockman, who accompanied the authors and supplies ghostly illustrations done in such impeccably authentic media as 'wombat fecal matter and acrylic polymer on paper.' His antics up the book's gonzo factor. and the authors' lively writing will keep readers' spirits high." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The quixotic quest at the heart of Carnivorous Nights is more than just endearing and engrossing, it's inspiring." Jonathan Safran Foer
"Sit down in a comfortable chair and get totally absorbed, as I did, with companions every bit as charming and more informative than André (as in My Dinner With)." Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
"Alexis Rockman and the thylacine are two of the most fascinating critters that have ever prowled the woods of Tasmania or the galleries and basketball courts of New York. Put them together, and you're off on a roaring adventure." David Quammen
"I was truly sorry to finish this book. During the days I was reading it, as I went about my necessary work, I found myself longing to return to that beautifully observed, excitingly reported, laugh-out-loud funny and at the same time heartbreakingly endangered world of the thylacine, pademelon, potoroo and, perhaps my favorite, Tasmanian Devil, and to the young adventurers whose travels and travails the book describes. This book will surely become a classic of wild-life adventure and travel writing." Marie Winn
About the Author
MARGARET MITTELBACH and MICHAEL CREWDSON regularly join forces for the New York Times and other publications, employing their dry wit to reveal nature in the strangest of places. Their previous book, Wild New York, uncovered the unsung natural wonders of the city that never sleeps. They give frequent talks and lectures on wildlife, and live in Brooklyn.
Alexis Rockman's artwork examines the history of how nature is portrayed, and is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and London's Saatchi Collection. He has also contributed artwork to several books, including Future Evolution, by Peter Ward, a prediction of the future of the global ecosystem. He lives and works in New York and has traveled around the world experiencing the wild firsthand.
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