Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
I haven’t read the other collections in this series, so I can’t compare it to them, just so you know.
Natural Causes is a collection of nature writing that is suppose to push nature writing in another direct or add another layer to it. It doesn’t quite do that as most of the writing comes off as simply fantasy fiction. Mind you, it’s not bad fantasy fiction.
Or maybe that’s my reaction because I read fantasy.
There are selections that do push the definition of nature writing. Most of them are poetry, though there a few stand out essay or short story pieces.
The collection starts strong with “Frothy Elegance & Loose Concupiscence” by Karen Hays. If you have read the work of Pollen, in particular his writing about corn intercourse, you will dig this essay. In it, Hays not only manages to describe corn but to use it to shed light on those who tend it. You learn just as much about the plant as you do about the human condition. Hays is followed by some outstanding poetry – in particular Thomas Bernhard’s “Eight Poems”, which make want to see if any more of his work is in translation.
“Transformation Day” by Lucy Ives is a rather interesting, if metaphorical tale about how perspective changes. It will make the reader re-think how to see things. While Benjamin Hale’s “Brother Who Com Comes Back Before the Next Very Big Winter” is a bit too long for my personal taste, the subject matter, living a town associated with a famous urban legend among other things, but also about life. It’s followed by Evelyn Hampton’s “Fishmaker” which is a rather good re-imaging of a creation myth.
The collection is closed out by China Mieville’s “Listen the Birds, A Trailer”, which just proves my long held point about robins wanting to be our overlords, though you might not be aware of it. It’s a view I’ve long held, and only the sparrows can save this (though Mieville doesn’t seem aware of this).
The essays and fiction in-between “Fishmaker” and “Listen the Birds, A Trailer” are not quite as intriguing as the poetry, though they are good and cover everything from plants to hyenas.
But the poetry. The poetry stays with you.