September Book Review
I became enamored with the tiniest of butterflies, thumbnail-sized gray hairstreaks in my peripheral vision, on a weed or a fence, common as a mailbox. But wait until they settle and show their underwings. Scallops of mango orange. Patterns of blue and russet. A crescent, a dash, a language in code.”—from Chapter One
An Obsession with Butterflies
Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect
Sharman Apt Russell
With a poet’s eye and a scientist’s precision, one of our most acclaimed nature writers turns her attention to the Painted Lady and the Purple Emperor, the Mourning Cloak and the Marbled White, and, of course, that lepidopterist’s dream—the El Segundo Blue.
In An Obsession with Butterflies, Sharman Apt Russell explores how these insects have captivated so many for so long. In the middle ages, people believed that butterflies were fairies sent to steal their milk. By the Victorian age, they had become a part of the furniture, locked away in curio cabinets and mounted in boxes on walls. Today, they’re often the stuff of news—vanishing species and global warming and genetically modified corn—and yet they continue to exude a certain mystery.
As Apt Russell takes us on this historical journey, she also brings us into the world of these remarkable creatures, revealing their sex lives, their parenting techniques, and their migratory habits—even their ability to mimic each other and the way they use their markings to trick those who’d make them prey. As Apt Russell says, “art is their defense,” and beauty is their power.
Informative, charming, and keenly wrought, An Obsession with Butterflies sheds warm summer light on a fascinating and elegant subject—the small, short-lived, and fragile beings whom we have named and loved and studied.
Sharman Apt Russell’s previous books include Anatomy of a Rose (Perseus Publishing, 2001), When the Land Was Young, Kill the Cowboy, and Songs of the Fluteplayer, winner of the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award. She lives in Silver City, New Mexico and teaches writing at Western New Mexico University and at Antioch University in Los Angeles.
June 1, 2003 Nature / Science ISBN: 0-7382-0699-7 238 Pages Hardcover
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