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The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and…
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The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the… (2018 original; edició 2019)

de Kirk Wallace Johnson (Autor)

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaMencions
6644026,582 (4.02)65
"On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature."--Page [2] of cover.… (més)
Membre:rdegrassi
Títol:The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
Autors:Kirk Wallace Johnson (Autor)
Informació:Penguin Books (2019), Edition: Reprint, 336 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca, Per llegir
Valoració:*****
Etiquetes:read2019

Detalls de l'obra

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century de Kirk Wallace Johnson (2018)

  1. 00
    The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History de Elizabeth Kolbert (schmootc)
    schmootc: This is another non-fiction book about natural history. It basically sketches out how a lot of those birds ended up being so scarce/extinct to begin with and scared the crap out of me at least about what's going to happen next.
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» Mira també 65 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 40 (següent | mostra-les totes)
A fascinating and important story, sapped of all vitality in the delivery. ( )
  CKHarwood | Sep 19, 2021 |
A good book about a thoroughly repugnant and repulsive incident. I was mostly furious the entire time I read. ( )
  JBD1 | Jul 20, 2021 |
A fascinating subject, that really could have used a better editor to make it a stronger book.

It's a great story: in 2009, Edwin Rist, a young man obsessed with the esoteric "art" of tying salmon fishing lures, using the feathers of endangered and extinct birds, broke into the Ornithology Department of the Natural History Museum in Tring, Hertfordshire, and helped himself to the preserved carcasses of hundreds of rare birds, some over a hundred years old and originally collected by Alfred Russel Wallace, contemporary and rival of Charles Darwin. So far, so fascinating.

In the prologue, in which Kirk Wallace Johnson describes the series of events that brought him to write about this, he says, about the different book he was supposed to be writing, "I didn't have a book deal; I had never written a book before ..." I don't know if he ever managed to write that book, but unfortunately, that amateurishness is obvious in the book he has written. This reads like a very interesting first draft, with lots of potential to turn it into a fine book. It's just a terrible shame that no one saw the need to do the work necessary to achieve that, and a rather disappointing first draft is what we are left with.

The flaws are on the micro and macro level. The writing is okay, just. He uses the right words, in the right order, but there is no flair, and there is an awful lot of padding. Johnson's attempts at local color come overs as clueless and dull. (English ale does not taste like flat diet Coke and warm lager, thanks very much .... )

But it's the bigger picture that's the real disappointment: this is (or could have been) a fascinating book about obsession. Alfred Russel Wallace was obsessed with collecting rare species of birds -- thousands of 'em, at real danger to his health, wealth and sanity. Edwin Rist was obsessed with tying salmon flies -- and with his own egotistical self-image, as a "superior" person who was worth only the very best. His friends in the salmon lure tying community are obsessed with a stupid, pointless hobby. (No apologies ... if there is one valuable takeaway from this book, it's that salmon fly tying is a stupid, irredeemably pointless hobby.)

Even though there was no genuine advantage conferred by such flies, they were adopted with ‘near hysteria’ by anglers who were ... ‘egged on by local tackle dealers who had much to gain from parting the new breed of … salmon fishermen from their money’ ...

The ornithologists at the Natural History Museum in Tring, and their colleagues at other, similar institutions all over the world, are professionally "obsessed" with their collections: the size, completeness, and historical and scientific value of the thousands of pieces they hold. Kirk Wallace Johnson became obsessed with Rist's unlikely "heist," trying to track down the bird skins he stole from the Museum in Tring, and identifying Rist's accomplices. There are other, lesser examples of obsession scattered throughout the book -- the fashion-victim women who were obsessed with ugly hats that sported the feathers and whole stuffed bodies of beautiful birds that should have been allowed to live out their lives in peace. The sad young orphaned refugee, transplanted to Norway (about as alien a place as you could imagine, for a child from Vietnam), who hero-worships (another form of obsession ...) the nasty Mr. Rist, and is manipulated into being a pawn in Rist's Cunning Plan to buy himself a gold flute ....

Despite multiple studies demonstrating that experts couldn’t hear any difference – and that he’d be auditioning behind a screen – Edwin had his eyes on a $20,000 golden flute ...

All this is great stuff, and Mr. Johnson knows it -- but he doesn't know exactly what to do with it. He knows that he is obsessed, that Edwin Rist is obsessed, that the salmon lure tiers are obsessed -- but how does he draw all that together? How does he arrive at a satisfying consideration of obsession, that leaves you, at the end -- even as crime goes unpunished and feathers are unfound -- feeling as if we have gotten an insight into our own obsessions?

Because, be honest, we all do have them. Yours and mine might not be as stupid, pointless and unattractive as the salmon lures that are never actually used for fishing, and which probably wouldn't actually lure the salmon anyway ... but we do have them, and who knows whether, offered a soft target, we might not be willing to scale a wall, climb through a broken window and do a bit of light pilfering to satisfy our obsession? How does Johnson bring it all together, and make it all make some kind of sense?

The answer is, he doesn't -- and consequently, the ending of The Feather Thief feels flat and unsatisfying. I'm not sorry I read it, not at all -- I just wish that that the better book that is in there had been given a chance to come out. ( )
  maura853 | Jul 11, 2021 |
Engaging, fast-moving true crime tale about fly-tying and greed. I liked the author and look forward to his next book. ( )
  jdukuray | Jun 23, 2021 |
As a birder and someone lost in admiration of Alfred Russell Wallace, I'm a captive audience right off the shelf. Throw in a wonderful, funny, heartbreaking cameo appearance by Richard Prum (ornithologist, evolutionary scholar, and author of the lovely and important "Evolution of Beauty"), and I'm sold. And even as the daughter of a lifelong trout fisherman, I had no clue about the existence of the obsessive-to-the-point-of-menacing underworld of salmon fly-tiers, so I learned (gulp) a lot.

Johnson writes briskly, vividly and skillfully in his tale of a strange, brilliant young man, Edwin Rist. Rist is a gifted flautist, studying at London's Royal Academy of Music. He has also been a rock star in the fly-tying world since he was in his teens. The world, it would seem, lay open before him. But he wants money to buy a $20,000 gold flute. So he takes a rock and a suitcase, busts through a window at the Tring Museum, home to one of the finest and most important ornithology collections in the world, walks out with nearly 300 bird skins (a number of which had been collected by Wallace himself - which made me nearly weep with helpless fury), gets on a train and goes home. And proceeds to start cutting up and selling feathers from these irreplaceable, rare, endangered and stunningly beautiful birds on eBay. To these amoral jerks for whom dyed turkey feathers aren't good enough to tie flies... which salmon will either bite on or not, depending on their mood and the weather... but it doesn't really matter because these guys (and it does seem they are all guys) don't fish anyway. They just tie flies. Admittedly, the flies themselves are absolutely beautiful: works of art, really - see some of photos in the book or a few samples at http://ronnlucassr.com/fly-gallaries/edwin-anton-rist/.

Edwin is caught quite quickly. He still has many of the specimens he stole, and almost immediately admits what he's done. A handful of his buyers return the skins they bought from him, but damaged and unlabeled, so are a total loss in the context of scientific knowledge and analysis. Edwin has good lawyers. And a hired psychologist who says he has Asperger's syndrome. [SPOILER ALERT!] So he walks on a suspended sentence and a fine. He goes home, his life as a musician resumes and that's it.

It's infuriating. In the remainder of the book, Johnson focuses more on his own obsession: he wants to find the rest of the missing skins. He doesn't. He does get to spend most of a day in a German hotel room, interviewing Rist, an unrepentant, clever, charming bullshitter. After years of hunting and brooding and interviewing and more trolling the internet than most people could bear, Johnson has to let it go. And returns to a cold New Mexican trout stream to cleanse his spirit. This is perhaps the less successful part of the book (except for the Prum interview) and could have been a summary chapter instead of nearly 100 pages.

Fascinating, fast-moving, weird, colorful, and disturbing. Definitely recommended. ( )
  JulieStielstra | May 17, 2021 |
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Kirk Wallace Johnsonautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Andrews, MacLeodNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Ihminen tyytyy harvoin katsomaan kauneutta.
Hänen täytyy omistaa se.

Sir Michael Somare,
Papua-Uusi-Guinean pääministeri
1979
Dedicatòria
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Marie-Joséelle:
C'était tout noir et blanc
avant que tu aies volé et atterri
dans mon arbre
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Kun Edwin Rist astui junasta Tringin aseman laiturille reilut kuusikymmentä kilometriä Lontoosta pohjoiseen, kello oli jo varsin paljon.
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(Clica-hi per mostrar-ho. Compte: pot anticipar-te quin és el desenllaç de l'obra.)
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"On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins--some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them--and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature."--Page [2] of cover.

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