The Hopes of Snakes
And Other Tales from the Urban Landscape
By Lisa Couturier
(Beacon Press, Hardcover, 9780807085646, 160pp.)
Publication Date: February 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A debut essay collection by one of the best new nature writers
It’s been a while since I stopped being surprised by nature in New York City, which is, after all, simply a name we’ve given this landscapea label meaningless to the birds, the turtles, the river.”
As a child in suburban Maryland, Lisa Couturier spent all her time outdoors, playing with snakes and toads and exploring every inch of what nature offered. Her parents were convinced that she would head out West as an adult, in search of wild lands and animals. Instead, Couturier moved to New York City, and it was there that she began to see nature and all the creatures in it with new eyes.
In The Hopes of Snakes, Couturier brings together the best of her essays on urban and suburban nature throughout the Northeast, from Washington, D.C., to Boston. She writes of the things in nature that we typically love, like the power and beauty of the Potomac River or the majesty of a peregrine falcon soaring above a skyscraper, but she also celebrates the animals we either ignore or consider pests, such as geese, snakes, and crows. Nature is often invisible to people amidst the concrete and glass of dense urban life. But Couturier’s sharp eye and deep humanity have found what is so remarkable in city nature and illuminated it for readers like no one before her.
The Hopes of Snakes is an eloquent and powerful debut by one of the best writers exploring nature in the humanized landscape today.
"Lisa Couturier's essays shine with her candor, her perception, and her affection for the creatures of our world, especially with their difficult encounters on our endless roads and in our inhospitable towns and cities. Whether the subject is a snake or a falcon or a crow named Edgar, these essays will both enlighten and give much reading pleasure." Mary Oliver
"Lisa Courturier has crafted a collection of essays that is, quite simply, stunning. The Hopes of Snakes takes readers into the lives and hearts of city creatures---those animals who persist in spite of us, and who call us back to our wild souls again and again from the dustiest of ledges, the dirtiest of cracks, the murkiest of city waterways. With respect and deep sensitivity, Courturier has crafted out of her life stories a guidebook back to those relational roots that sustain us through the most paved-over aspects of human life. I loved this book---loved getting to know each pigeon, each turtle, each falcon along with a colorful human cast of characters wise enough to treat these creatures as relatives. This book is a keeper, a teacher." Susan Chernak McElroy, author of Animals as Teachers and Healers
"The Hopes of Snakes is a book full of rapture, mystery and surprise. I LOVE this book. Snakes DO have hopes, Lisa Couturier tells us, and that's just the first of her revelatory observations, many of which will take your breath away as surely as the glimpse of an owl in the city, or the voice of coyote in the backyard. Let this lyrical, extraordinary book lure you into the urban thickets and vales of foxes, vultures, coyotes, serpents and geese--and inspire you to recapture the wild heart that keeps us truly alive." Sy Montgomery, author of Search for the Golden Moon Bear
In this brilliant new book, Lisa Couturier offers readers a resonant and uplifting meditation upon the natural landscape. The author and her publisher are to be congratulated for producing a book that belongs in any library, public or private, that aspires to be complete on the subject of nature writing. In her mastery of the essay as an expressive form, and in the power and sincerity of her thinking, Lisa Couturier has established herself as the literary equal of such contemporary luminaries as Linda Hogan, Diane Ackerman and Barbara Kingsolver.” John A. Murray, editor of the American Nature Writing series