Few writers have attempted to explore the natural history of a particular animal by adopting the animals own sensibility. But Verlyn Klinkenborgwith his deeply empathetic relation to the world around himhas done just that, and done it brilliantly, in Timothy.
This is the story of a tortoise whose real life was observed by the eighteenth-century English curate Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne. For thirteen years, Timothy lived in Whites gardenmaking an occasional appearance in his journals. Now Klinkenborg gives the tortoise an unforgettable voice and powers of observation as keen as those of any bipedal naturalist. The happy result: Timothy regales us with an account of a gracefully paced (no unseemly hurry!) eight-day adventure outside the gate (How do I escape from that nimble-tongued, fleet-footed race? . . . Walk through the holes in their attention) and entertains us with shrewd observations about the curious habits and habitations of humanity. To humans, Timothy says with doleful understanding, in and out are matters of life and death. Not to me. Warm earth waits just beneath me. . . . The humans own heat keeps them from sensing it.
Wry and wise, unexpectedly moving, and enchanting at everycarefulturn, Timothy will surprise and delight readers of all ages.
This is a small volume that cannot be hurried, and at the moment my life is too frenetic to enjoy something that needs to be read at tortoise-speed. However, I will certainly be keeping it on the shelf to look forward to in calmer days when I can appreciate Timothy's wisdom more fully. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
A dazzling riff on human beings and their weird ways 'written' by an 18th-century tortoise...On virtually every page there is a phrase or sentence that entertains or amuses or informs...Timothy the tortoise is a splendid social critic, a keen-eyed anthropologist who sees far beyond his shell.
Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy
Timothy is a disarming, original book. Part memoir, part poetry, and part philosophy, Verlyn Klinkenborg has written a natural history of empathy. Through the mind of a tortoise, boundaries between species dissolve and anthropocentric assumptions shatter, as we are led to examine and explore our cruelty, compassion and curiosity as human beings. This is a narrative of great heart and brave talent. Because of Timothy, I feel the world differently.
Los Angeles Times
Verlyn Klinkenborg is neither naturalist nor nature poet, but he writes about nature with the science of the former and the soul of the latter. . .To read him is to wonder: How does he notice all those little things? And how does he make all those little things, seemingly meaningless and mundane, add up to such big ideas about beauty, grace, and the mysteries of natural life?
The Washington Times
...what [this] engaging reptile has to say will stay with readers long after they close the pages of this astonishing book...
In a gorgeous hybrid of naturalist observation, novelistic invention and philosophical meditation, Klinkenborg...views the English countryside through the eyes of a tortoise and gives his human readers rich food for thought... This "true story," as Klinkenborg describes it, offers studied, beautiful reflections on the present and memory, earth and weather, love and utility, human and beast. This is a wholly unexpected and astonishing book.
The New York Times
Charming and most enjoyable...Klinkenborg's prose is a pleasure to read.
Told in terse sentences that can read like stanzas of poetry. . .this brief but powerful book is unforgettable.
Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong
Verlyn Klinkenborg has imagined his way into the spirit and voice of a long-dead turtle. If only we humans were as wise as Klinkenborg's ancient female - as calm as she in adversity, as poetic in our speech, as perceptive and patient about all that happens around us. Timothy is a terrific book, an astonishing feat of the imagination.
Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams
Timothy is a luminous act of imagination and perspective. In reframing Gilbert White's A Natural History of Selbourne, Klinkenborg dramatizes a set of human values and prejudices as portentous as those Orwell addressed in Animal Farm. A clarion call to reconsider our place, our tack, in the modern world.
The Natural History &
Antiquities of Selborne
was first published in 1789 and
has gone through many editions
since, remaining a favorite
amongst nature lovers. As for
Timothy himself, he lived with
White from 1780 until White died
in 1793. Timothy died sometime
the following year but his shell
has been preserved and can be
found somewhere in the
Natural History Museum in
London (a gloriously cavernous
Victorian building which is a
"must see" for anyone visiting
London, not least because entry
Klikenborg works full time for
the New York Times, but from a
farmhouse far removed from the
city. He came to be in this
enviable position when the...
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