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Ill Nature

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  193 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Most of us watch with mild concern the fast-disappearing wild spaces or the recurrence of pollution-related crises such as oil spills, toxic blooms in fertilizer-enriched forests, and violence both home and abroad. Joy Williams does more than watch. In this collection of condemnations and love letters, revelations and cries for help, she brings to light the price of compla ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published February 1st 2001)
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Jul 23, 2011 Chazzbot rated it really liked it
Joy Williams is angry and unrepentant, but also kind and sad. Though her primary topic here is the environment, or rather, what humans have done to the environment, mostly in ignorance, she also discusses the suicide of Wendy O. Williams, lead singer of the 80's punk band, the Plazmatics; the mauling she received from her beloved dog, Hawk; and Ted Kaczynski's cabin. In each of her essays, Williams expresses a deep curiousity (sometimes bordering on bafflement) and, more important, questions con ...more
Feb 14, 2008 Lorraine rated it it was amazing
I am teaching a course on writing about nature. We've read some gorgeous meditations on the beautiful earth, books that move me. And then there's Joy Williams, who simultaneously makes me laugh out loud and shake my head in agreement--even when she's doing things like attacking folks who have children (and I'm one of them.) Williams is pissed off about what we've done to the environment, and this book is one well-written, Molly Ivins-razor sharp poke in the eye essay after another. I can't recom ...more
Apr 12, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
One of the best essay collections I've read. This is bracing, powerful, angry stuff. Often very funny, too.

Really the only downside was that experience of happening across a piece of writing that perfectly executes the sort of moves you were attempting in some pieces of your own. You smile, nod, and sigh. Okay. So, I can still maybe (probably not, but just maybe) pull that off, but it won't be new. Ah, the absurd pursuit of the new at this late date.

Highlights: Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp;
Mar 26, 2008 Whiskeyb rated it really liked it
She rant so nice and sharp that I cry a little.
Frances Chiem
Jan 20, 2014 Frances Chiem rated it really liked it
A beautiful, often tragic book for environmentalists looking for some cathartic rage and can stand a little cognitive dissonance.

Joy Williams is as angry as I want to be and often am about our disconnection from and carelessness toward the environment. I disagree with her on her views toward hunting, given that I live in a state where it is not uncommon for people to hunt for protein as an extension of the slow-food movement and where hunters are dedicated conservationists calling for shorter s
Geoff Wyss
Nov 12, 2015 Geoff Wyss rated it really liked it
I loved the angry, alarmed, intemperance of many of these essays, which writers won't usually allow themselves even when alarm is the only rational response to, for example, the despoliation of the Everglades. My favorites here were "Animal People" and "Hawk."
Aug 16, 2008 Mel rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
Joy Williams’ nature essays present the stark nature of reality in the 21st Century. She often is caustic in her assault, abandoning any room in which the reader can be absolved from guilt and relax, even for a moment. Her prose, while very well written is off-putting. She is passionate about her subject matter, but her militant approach left this reader, an environmentalist, feeling attacked.
Mar 08, 2010 dara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The first time I read this collection of essays, I was eighteen years old. Shortly after I became a vegetarian--partly inspired by the essay "The Animal People." There's something about the way she writes that drew me in even when nature was so far removed from my concerns. Perhaps it's the way she acknowledges how much easier it would be to continue to turn a blind eye to it all, to ignore the nagging guilt and sadness that is so easily pushed aside.

"You don't believe in Nature anymore. It's to
Joan Colby
Nov 25, 2015 Joan Colby rated it really liked it
Remarkable essays that frequently verge on rants. Williams takes on hunting, animal rights, agriculture and more. Well-written and insightful.
Jul 13, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Outstanding -- and unsettling -- collection of essays.
Dec 04, 2011 Janey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2011
Rants these are! There is no doubt that these are well-written essays: bald, furious, biting, sometimes enormously moving. But the lack of a bibliography for many of these pieces, in which Williams trots out a large number of purported facts in support of her claims, undermines her authority. Nevertheless, it's a jarring --- even important --- wake-up call of a book that provides plenty to think seriously about for the unsuspecting & complacent consumer (I include myself in this group).
May 12, 2012 Sydney rated it really liked it
I didn't care for the "scree-like" quality of the essays of the first half of this collection, preferring the personal narratives, like "One Acre". "The Animal People" is brilliant; "Hawk" is very, very difficult to read, but is, I fear, an essay everyone reading about, writing about, thinking about, protesting about nature and the environment should read.
Vincent Scarpa
May 08, 2013 Vincent Scarpa rated it really liked it
Some very compelling rhetorical arguments here—especially "The Case Against Babies" and "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp"—but I found the most enjoyment in essays like "One Acre" and "Hawk" that found Williams interrogating issues of nature, mortality, and impermanence in her own life. "Hawk" is a hell of an essay; a heartbreaker.
Mar 30, 2009 Tara rated it it was ok
This was a mix of essays that included ones I really enjoyed, another few that were interesting, another that got me all fired up about the environment, another that made me cry, and another that wished I could talk to the author in person. I did not care for her style of writing.
Trish Remley
Feb 08, 2011 Trish Remley rated it liked it
Such a mix! Some of the essays I am so with the author and some not so much. But I appreciate the case she makes for all her views and are worthy of reading no matter which side of the fence you may be. One Acre is wonderful and Wildebeest & Hawk broke my heart.
Scott Holstad
Apr 27, 2012 Scott Holstad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is one of the best books of liberal essays I've had the pleasure of reading. Williams hits home runs left and right with her onslaught against a conservative culture and society. It makes one ask hard questions....
Julia Clinger
Aug 12, 2011 Julia Clinger rated it really liked it
Joy Williams can't write an un-interesting sentence, any more than she can make a lazy argument. A defense of animal rights and ecological responsibility that appeals to intellect as well as emotion.
Jan 11, 2012 Tyler rated it really liked it
When I first picked up this book, it was primarily for the essay, "Why I Write". This is an astounding commentary on nature and man's effect on nature.
Stephanie Tipton
Jan 10, 2010 Stephanie Tipton rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
just read the essay on animal rights activists/supporters - it's right on target. want to read more...
Jun 30, 2007 amber rated it liked it
A good collection of essays for anyone concerned about humanity's disconnection from the natural world.
Dec 31, 2013 Adrienne rated it really liked it
The first few essays felt like she was yelling at the reader but the rest were quite good.
Amy Ruth
Astringent, angry, and impassioned. I read this after Reading "The Quick and the Dead."
Nov 09, 2007 Pat rated it really liked it
Nobody writes a better rant than Joy Williams. Great collection.

Sep 14, 2011 Hilary rated it it was amazing
Rousing, urgent, fantastic, and to be reread.
Courtney Maum
Feb 12, 2016 Courtney Maum rated it it was amazing
Not easy to read, necessary to read.
Mark marked it as to-read
May 17, 2016
Jill Renee Kilgore
Jill Renee Kilgore marked it as to-read
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Northpapers marked it as to-read
May 16, 2016
Luke rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2016
Andy Gasparini
Andy Gasparini marked it as to-read
May 15, 2016
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Williams is the author of four novels. Her first, State of Grace (1973), was nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Quick and the Dead (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her first collection of short stories was Taking Care, published in 1982. A second collection, Escapes, followed in 1990. A 2001 essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and ...more
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“For centuries poets, some poets, have tried to give a voice to the animals, and readers, some readers, have felt empathy and sorrow. If animals did have voices, and they could speak with the tongues of angels--at the very least with the tongues of angels--they would be unable to save themselves from us. What good would language do? Their mysterious otherness has not saved them, nor have their beautiful songs and coats and skins and shells and eyes. We discover the remarkable intelligence of the whale, the wolf, the elephant--it does not save them, nor does our awareness of the complexity of their lives. Their strength, their skills, their swiftness, the beauty of their flights. It matters not, it seems, whether they are large or small, proud or shy, docile or fierce, wild or domesticated, whether they nurse their young or brood patiently on eggs. If they eat meat, we decry their viciousness; if they eat grasses and seeds, we dismiss them as weak. There is not one of them, not even the songbird who cannot, who does not, conflict with man and his perceived needs and desires. St. Francis converted the wolf of Gubbio to reason, but he performed this miracle only once and as miracles go, it didn’t seem to capture the public’s fancy. Humans don’t want animals to reason with them. It would be a disturbing, unnerving, diminishing experience; it would bring about all manner of awkwardness and guilt.” 21 likes
“Anthropomorphism originally meant the attribution of human characteristics to God. It is curious that the word is now used almost exclusively to ascribe human characteristics--such as fidelity or altruism or pride, or emotions such as love, embarrassment, or sadness--to the nonhuman animal. One is guilty of anthropomorphism, though it is no longer a sacrilegious word. It is a derogatory, dismissive one that connotes a sort of rampant sentimentality. It’s just another word in the arsenal of the many words used to attack the animal rights movement.” 6 likes
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