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High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or…
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High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never (original 1995; edition 1996)

by Barbara Kingsolver

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1,657None4,318 (4.04)61
Member:jenkinra
Title:High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never
Authors:Barbara Kingsolver
Info:Harper Perennial (1996), Paperback, 288 pages
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High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver (1995)

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» See also 61 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Stephen Jay Gould, the renowned writer in the field of natural history had the irritating habit of including two or three short essays, usually around 30 pages, on baseball in his books about natural history. Whether it was the editor or the author (more likely), many of his books contain such a small, unrelated section, even though in the case of Gould the title of many of his books specifically refers to "natural history".

Barbara Kingsolver takes up this trend, and pushes it a little further. High tide in Tucson. Essays from now or never, her first published collection of essays, is a rather hybrid work. The book is a medley of essays, some about Natural History, and some about very down-to-earth, everyday occurrences in the life of the author and her family.

The author, and editor, make attempts to reconcile this choice by suggesting that the essay collection is on "issues around family, community and ecology." However, this merely seems an example of inventive packaging, an oblique excuse to say that the collection lacks focus.

To be sure, Barbara Kingsolver earned an MA in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and has worked as a science writer for a number of years. Still, High tide in Tucson. Essays from now or never is characterized by a paucity in content about Natural History, and the contributions which are about nature or natural science are superficial, and not very specific. However, the natural history essays in this collection are more characterized by literary style, often starting with references to classical authors such as Aristotle, Pliny the Elder or Thoreau. They are interspersed with essays about the most banal topics occurring in the author's family life and local community.

What makes the collection as a whole most readable is its down-to-earth style and being free from pretentiousness. Perhaps High tide in Tucson. Essays from now or never is meant to illustrate that is every scientist, there is also a house wife or house husband.

High tide in Tucson. Essays from now or never is perhaps interesting for readers who enjoy reading weekly columns, and the lighter style essays. Readers expecting to discover the naturalist in Barbara Kingsolver better move on. ( )
  edwinbcn | Nov 19, 2013 |
Earlier this year, while in the midst of the high tide of our family's move, I spent several days sorting through piles of papers in our den. Work-related papers, school papers, recipes torn from magazines, writing ideas, artwork created when the kids were in preschool. You get the idea.

One of the papers that I came across was a page torn from an Oprah magazine (probably one circa 1998, as I threw away more than a decade's worth - I wish I was kidding - of such publications). It contained this quote, from "High Tide in Tucson" by Barbara Kingsolver:

"Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job .... And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another - that is surely the basic instinct.... crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is." (pg. 15-16, "High Tide in Tucson")

That resonated with me so much in those darker days of just several months ago, and I knew I had to read High Tide in Tucson sooner rather than later.

And so, I hunkered down this holiday weekend with this collection of 25 essays (some of which Kingsolver previously published elsewhere, some of which were revised for the purposes of this collection) and I found myself absolutely entranced.

Barbara Kingsolver has a lyrical way with words and a style that is so warmly familiar, and oftentimes, dead-on funny. She's an absolute craftsman of the creative nonfiction form, and anyone who writes in that form or wants to hone their skills in that form would be wise to read her work. I think this collection would be invaluable for bloggers, actually. She speaks directly at her reader as she writes of many a varied topic here - the landscape (physical and emotional) of her childhood home of Kentucky; a beloved teacher; the deserts of Tucson that are her adopted home; a pet hermit crab; the myth of private property; a family of paper dolls; Hawaii; the javelinas (wild pigs) that descended each night on the family's desert home, and the life of a writer.

(If you are a writer, this collection is a must read, if only for "In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again," "Jabberwocky," "The Forest in the Seeds," and the downright hilarious sampling of letters Kingsolver has received as an author, "Careful What You Let in the Door.")

The best thing I can do - the only thing I can do - in this review is to give you a sampling of Kingsolver's prose from High Tide in Tucson and let you judge for yourself just how good she is. And, this too: keep in mind that these words were written for a 1995 publication date. I think they ring true - even moreso, really - today, and that is the true mark of a writer for our time.

"I played with a set of paper dolls called 'The Family of Dolls,' four in number, who came with the factory-assigned names of Dad, Mom, Sis, and Junior. I think you know what they looked like, at least before I loved them to death and their heads fell off.

Now I've replaced the dolls with a life. I knit my days around my daughter's survival and happiness, and am proud to say her head is still on. But we aren't The Family of Dolls. Maybe you aren't either. And if not, even though you are statistically no oddity, it's probably been suggested to you in a hundred ways that yours isn't exactly a real family, but an imposter family, a harbinger of cultural ruin, a slapdash substitute - something like counterfeit money. Here at the tail end of our century, most of us are up to our ears in the noisy business of trying to support and love a thing called family. But there's a current in the air with ferocious moral force that finds its way even into political campaigns, claiming there is only one right way to do it, the Way It Has Always Been.
In the face of a thriving, particolored world, this narrow view is so pickled and absurd I'm astonished that it gets airplay."

(This is in 1995, people. Sixteen years ago. The times, they definitely ain't a changin'.)

"You can fool history sometimes, but you can't fool the memory of your intimates. And thank heavens, because in the broad valley between real life and propriety whole herds of important truths can steal away into the underbrush. I hold that valley to be my home territory as a writer." ("In Case you Ever Want to Go Home Again," pg. 36)

"To find oneself suddenly published is thrilling - that is a given. But how appalling it also felt I find hard to describe. Imagine singing at the top of your lungs in the shower as you always do, then one day turning off the water and throwing back the curtain to see there in your bathroom a crowd of people with videotape. I wanted to throw a towel over my head." ("In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again," pg. 37)

(That's kind of how I feel sometimes when someone who I know in real life admits they've been reading my blog - when I hadn't known they've actually been doing so.)

For each of these quotes, I could have included ten more. But you get the idea. This is a fabulous, fabulous collection of essays. I can't imagine any better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend.

Except, perhaps, with Ms. Kingsolver herself at the table.

"Any family is a big empty pot, save for what gets thrown in. Each stew turns out different. Generosity, a resolve to turn bad back into good, and respect for variety - these things will nourish a nation of children. Name-calling and suspicion will not. My soup contains a rock or two of hard times, and maybe yours does too. I expect it's a heck of a bouillabaise." ("Stone Soup," pg. 145 of High Tide in Tucson)
( )
  bettyandboo | Apr 2, 2013 |
barbara kingsolver is one of those (few, for me) authors whom i read and think to myself, i'd really like to sit on the porch with a glass of wine some evening or a cup of tea some morning, and just talk with her. she is so fascinated by so many different things, and i love finding people like that. reading her writing, then, for me, is always an experience that makes me want to live more, to think more, to know more. i can't ask for more than that from a book. and she delivers every time.

"'If you never stepped on anybody's toes, you never been for a walk.'" (a quote from her grandfather)

and a quote among many that speaks to me as marcy and i step closer to our adoption: "...life with children always bursts to fullness in the narrowest passages..." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
Barbara Kingsolver’s book of essays, High Tide in Tucson, is an interesting and enjoyable read. Fans of Kingsolver’s books will recognize many aspects of Kingsolver’s life as described in the essays, from her novels. While her novels are not autobiographical, it is gratifying to know that some elements of her wonderful novels are derived from first-hand knowledge and experience. The title essay, about a hermit crab, is especially delightful and interesting. I recommend this book to fans of Kingsolver’s novels as an excellent background read. ( )
  CloggieDownunder | Mar 16, 2012 |
I've been reading Kingsolver's works in reverse chronological order and it is interesting to see how she has modified her voice over the years. Honestly if her name wasn't on these essays, I wouldn't have recognized them as her work because they seem much different than her other books I've read. Still interesting and well-written, just in a different tone. Her travel logs from living overseas are enjoyable and the piece regarding how children are treated in Spain was especially thought-provoking. While her approach to matters regarding the US military seem somewhat one-sided and overly simplistic, she doesn't shy away from controversial or unpopular topics either, which I appreciate. Whether you agree with her viewpoints or not, it is a good well-rounded collection that gives the reader a much better understanding of one of America's most gifted bestselling authors. Bottom Line: Love her or hate her, the lady can write. ( )
  dele2451 | Jun 18, 2011 |
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Kingsolver, Barbaramain authorall editionsconfirmed
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for Steven, and for every singing miracle
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When I told my mother I was making a book of my essays, many of which had been published previously in magazines, she responded with pure maternal advocacy: "Oh, good! I think there are some out there that I've missed." (Preface)
A hermit crab lives in my house. (High Tide in Tucson)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060927569, Paperback)

"There is no one quite like Barbara Kingsolver in contemporary literature," raves the Washington Post Book World, and it is right. She has been nominated three times for the ABBY award, and her critically acclaimed writings consistently enjoy spectacular commercial success as they entertain and touch her legions of loyal fans.

In High Tide in Tucson, she returnsto her familiar themes of family, community, the common good and the natural world. The title essay considers Buster, a hermit crab that accidentally stows away on Kingsolver's return trip from the Bahamas to her desert home, and turns out to have manic-depressive tendencies. Buster is running around for all he's worth -- one can only presume it's high tide in Tucson. Kingsolver brings a moral vision and refreshing sense of humor to subjects ranging from modern motherhood to the history of private property to the suspended citizenship of human beings in the Animal Kingdom.

Beautifully packaged, with original illustrations by well-known illustrator Paul Mirocha, these wise lessons on the urgent business of being alive make it a perfect gift for Kingsolver's many fans.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Barbara Kingsolver has entertained and touched the lives of legions of readers with her critically acclaimed and bestselling novels The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, and Pigs in Heaven. In these twenty-five newly conceived essays, she returns once again to her favored literary terrain to explore the themes of family, community, and the natural world. With the eyes of a scientist and the vision of a poet, Barbara Kingsolver writes about notions as diverse as modern motherhood, the history of private property, and the suspended citizenship of humans in the animal kingdom. Kingsolver's canny pursuit of meaning from an inscrutable world compels us to find instructions for life in surprising places: a museum of atomic bomb relics, a West African voodoo love charm, an iconographic family of paper dolls, the ethics of a wild pig who persistently invades a garden, a battle of wills with a two-year-old, or a troop of oysters who observe high tide in the middle of Illinois.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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