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A Beginner's Faith in Things Unseen


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About the Author

John Hay (1915-2011) is the author of The Great Beach (winner of the John Burroughs Prize), The Run, and A Beginner's Faith in Things Unseen, among many other books.


Hay, who turns 80 this year, has established a reputation as a nature writer with such works as The Great Beach (LJ 11/15/63), winner of the John Burroughs Medal. In the present collection of essays, Hay returns to childhood experiences of nature, since, he writes, "First enchantments outlive all later judgments we make about the world." The essays suggest that we need to look at the world once again with the eyes of a child. Each piece combines memory, observation, philosophy, and anecdote. "Listening to the Wind," for example, leaps from storms to birds to the Grass Dance of the Plains Indians, from excitement at the beauty of geese flying overhead to a lament for a civilization that is "speeding everywhere and nowhere." Hay's enthusiasm for the natural world and its beauty is evident throughout. Some of these essays have been published previously in a different form. Intended as an "end-of-career" work, this collection will be of interest to both public and academic libraries.‘Nancy Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, N.C.

His approaching 80th birthday turns the author to reflecting on his reverence for nature. Hay (The Great Beach) first reminisces about his childhood in New Hampshire and Manhattan (he sees the latter as a spaceship). He writes of the rocky shores of Maine and the wind on the sands of Cape Cod, the decline of fisheries, the Grass Dance of the Lakota Sioux. Hay is profoundly affected as he watches pilot whales stranded on Cape Cod. Observing the transformation of a pond to a bog, he likens its rhythmic change to the beat of a human heart. Hay's essay about a journey to the Arizona desert is especially revealing of his spiritual sensitivity to his surroundings. From the Grand Old Man of nature writing, this is an eloquent valedictory. (Jan.)

"A Beginner's Faith in Things Unseen provides a sort of retrospective introduction to the mind of a man who has gained a quiet reputation as the elder statesman of American nature writing."
-Amanda Heller, Boston Sunday Globe

"After a lifetime of study, [Hay] retains the humility and passion of a beginner."
-David Miller, Sewanee Review

"[Hay] believes that we must return to the kind of direct, open, and intuitive relationship with nature that children have....[He] infects his readers with the same sense of wonder and grace."
-Miles Harvey, Outside

"Dispatches from a lifelong pilgrimage of faith in the endurance and overarching power of the natural world....This is among the finest nature writing you'll ever encounter."
-Barbara A. Genco, School Library Journal

"John Hay is one of our very best essayists on the natural world."
-Peter Matthiessen

"John Hay has been in a running dialogue with the birds of light and fish of darkness for many decades. His writings have enriched our literature, and yet he does not rest on his laurels. Instead, he swims ahead, humbled as ever by the mysteries swarming around him."
-Gary Paul Nabhan

"No one writes so movingly about the real world as John Hay."
-Jake Page

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