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.
We have learned the title of a book by the Chicago ecologist and writer May Theilgaard Watts has been incorrectly rendered in the selections attributed to Mrs. Watts. The correct title of her book is Reading the Landscape of America
(Nature Study Guild Publishers, see http://naturestudy.com
). This will be corrected in the next printing. We very much regret the error.