Cover image for Ill nature : rants and reflections on humanity and other animals
Ill nature : rants and reflections on humanity and other animals
Williams, Joy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Lyons Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 214 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GF75 .W56 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Williams tackles a host of controversial subjects in this collection of nineteen impassioned essays dealing mostly with humanity's abuses of the natural world.

Author Notes

Joy Williams is the author of four novels--most recently, The Quick and the Dead--two collections of short stories, and a history of the Florida Keys. Her first novel, State of Grace, was nominated for the 1974 National Book Award, and she received an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1989. She has been the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Granta, Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper's, and dozens of other magazines and reviews. She lives in Tucson, Arizona

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Sharp and satiric in her novels, which include The Quick and the Dead [BKL O 1 00], Williams is even fiercer in her essays. She will not soft-pedal or sweet-talk; she means to incite, rattle, and pique. Extremely well informed, Williams writes, in a froth and a fury, about the ravaged state of nature. In "Safariland," she both marvels at the wonder of elephants and vanquishes the fantasy that wildlife still roams free in Africa. Williams calls the Everglades the Neverglades because that great wilderness is no more. She cuts through the self-serving rhetoric hunters spin to justify their lust for blood; questions extravagant artificial insemination procedures; and bluntly describes the brutal transformation of animals into myriad, thoughtlessly consumed products. And she looks directly into the heart of wildness in wrenching tributes to a beloved dog who suddenly turned vicious and to the fabulously crazy punk-rock performance artist Wendy O. Williams. These howls, protests, and pleas for sanity are lacerating, brilliant, and necessary. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sharp, sarcastic and uncompromising, Williams tackles a host of controversial subjects in this collection of 19 impassioned essays dealing mostly with humans' abuses of the natural world. Two of the collection's strongest essays deal with animal rights: "The Killing Game," an antihunting essay first published, to great furor, in Esquire, and "The Animal People," which casts a harsh eye on the agricultural, medical and environmental establishments for their treatment of animals. Other pieces note the diminished state of African wildlife ("Safariland"), the increasing number of babies born in the United States despite the threat of overpopulation ("The Case Against Babies") and the impact of consumer culture on the natural world ("Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp"). An acclaimed novelist (The Quick and the Dead) and Guggenheim fellow, Williams writes that her essays, unlike her stories, are "meant to annoy and trouble and polarize"; she terms her own nonfiction style "unelusive and strident and brashly one-sided." Readers will likely find all this true. At times, the collection falters under the weight of Williams's anger and moral indignation, and a few essays that are only loosely nature-related ("Sharks and Suicide," "The Electric Chair" and "Why I Write") undermine its momentum. However, her forceful writing and vivid depictions of habitat destruction and animal abuse ("Neverglades," "Wildebeest") make for compelling reading. Williams believes that the "ecological crisis" facing us is essentially a "moral issue," one caused by "culture and character, and a deep change in personal consciousness is needed." While it is unlikely that her combative rants will win new converts, some environmentalists may find this book a powerful call to action. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This is not a comfortable book; nor can it be cast aside as just another tiresome list of environmental ills. In this collection of essays, Williams decries the ecological devastation caused by development, technology, and an out-of-control population. She minces no words in her treatment of hunters, wildlife managers, scientists who use animals in research, and a general public addicted to consumerism. Her writing is heavy with sarcasm and irony. It is also compelling, and the ten chapters go quickly. Williams is a seasoned writer, the author of several works of fiction (The Quick and the Dead) as well as nonfiction and recipient of a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Although the chapters "Sharks and Suicide" and "Hawk" diverge from her environmental theme to follow other musings, as a whole the work is effective and will likely leave the reader angry, frustrated, distressed, or depressed, which is, after all, her intent. Highly recommended for environmental and general collections.DMaureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ., Sault Ste. Marie, MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-These 19 essays were first published (some in different form) in magazines as diverse as Esquire and Mother Jones. Alternating long essays with short ones, Williams looks at the state of nature and the destruction wrought upon it by humans from rich nations-and the inexcusable obliviousness of those people to what they are doing. She charms with wit and passion: as she says in the last essay, "Why I Write," "The good piece of writing startles the reader back into Life." These are, by that standard, good pieces of writing. The title of one chapter, "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimps," conveys something of Williams's freewheeling style. "The Case Against Babies" (another knockout) might come as a revelation to many young women, even as it outrages some of their parents. "The Killing Game" is probably the best-known piece here because of the hate mail it provoked when first published. There are no "pros and cons" here: wrong is wrong, as every child knows (and many teens have not yet forgotten), and Williams knows her own mind. Though the subjects are often distressing, many teens will identify strongly with her moral outrage at injustices and cruelties inflicted upon the defenseless, and will be heartened to find a writer who so effectively expresses so much of what they feel. The book has a hideous cover but readers who get past its off-putting face will be rewarded-whether they hate it or love it-with a truly colorful reading experience.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimpp. 1
Key Loisp. 23
Safarilandp. 25
Wildebeestp. 45
The Killing Gamep. 47
Cabin Cabinp. 71
Nevergladesp. 77
Floridap. 87
The Case against Babiesp. 91
Catsp. 107
Sharks and Suicidep. 109
Coral Castlep. 121
One Acrep. 125
Audubonp. 143
The Animal Peoplep. 145
Electric Chairp. 179
Hawkp. 181
Autumnp. 203
Why I Writep. 205