In the literary imagination, Chicago evokes images of industry and unbridled urban growth. But the tallgrass prairie and deep forests that once made up Chicago's landscape also inspired musings from residents and visitors alike. In Of Prairie, Woods, and Water, naturalist Joel Greenberg gathers these unique voices from the land to present an unexpected portrait of Chicago in this often charming, sometimes heart-wrenching anthology of nature writing.
These writings tell the tale of a land in transition-one with abundant, unique, and incredibly lush flora and fauna, a natural history quite elusive today. Drawing on archives he uncovered while writing his acclaimed A Natural History of the Chicago Region, Greenberg hand-selected these first-person narratives, all written between 1721 and 1959. Not every author is familiar, but every contribution is distinctive. From a pioneer's hilarious notes on life in the Kankakee marsh to Theodore Drieser's poignant plea for conservation of the Tippecanoe River to infamous murderer Nathan Leopold's charming description of a pet robin he kept in prison, the sources included are as diverse as the nature they describe.
The excerpts conclude with insightful biographical essays and traverse a wide area of greater Chicagoland, from the Illinois River to southwest Michigan, from southern Wisconsin to the Limberlost swamp of northeastern Indiana. A fascinating record of Chicago's changing environmental history, Of Prairie, Woods, and Water captures the natural world in a way that will inspire its continued conservation.
A defining piece of history.... What Mike Royko's Boss did for Chicago politics, Greenberg's book does for the region's natural history. - Dale Bowman, Chicago Sun-Times "We may not regain the awe of the French explorers, but if nothing else, Greenberg's book will induce some renewed respect for a rich, obstinate, parallel universe. And that call for esteem, or at least tolerance, makes the book a little revolution in itself, as beautifully stubborn as the lakeside daisy, the scraps of prairie grass and the wildflowers sprouting, against all odds, beside the railway tracks." - Raphael Kadushin, Chicago Tribune"
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