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John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman

Narrated by: T. Anthony Quinn
Length: 13 hrs and 44 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

John James Audubon's The Birds of America stands as an unparalleled achievement in American art, a huge book that puts nature dramatically on the page. With that work, Audubon became one of the most adulated artists of his time, and America's first celebrity scientist.

In this fresh approach to Audubon's art and science, Gregory Nobles shows us that Audubon's greatest creation was himself. A self-made man incessantly striving to secure his place in American society, Audubon made himself into a skilled painter, a successful entrepreneur, and a prolific writer, whose words went well beyond birds and scientific description. In pursuit of popular acclaim in art and science, Audubon crafted an expressive, audacious, and decidedly masculine identity as the "American Woodsman," a larger-than-life symbol of the new nation, a role he perfected in his quest for transatlantic fame.

Nobles argues that we cannot take all of Audubon's stories literally, but we must take them seriously. By doing so, we come to terms with the central irony of Audubon's true nature: the man who took so much time and trouble to depict birds so accurately left us a bold but deceptive picture of himself.

Published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

"Brings 'the American Woodsman' back to full, vivid life, capturing the artist's many facets as Audubon himself captured the essence of his beloved birds." - Scott Weidensaul, author of Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding

"Compulsively readable and fascinating. Gregory Nobles's bottom-to-top assessment of the entire tableau of Audubon lore is terrific." - Daniel Lewis, author of The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds

"An elegant book that adroitly weaves together a portrait of a man of genius and an account of the cultural and economic worlds in which he worked." - Ann Fabian, author of The Skull Collectors

©2017 University of Pennsylvania Press (P)2017 Redwood Audiobooks

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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An Icon in the Nature movement

One of the Leaders in American History in appreciating a variety of aspects in our glorious Nature.

With a good Narrator we are introduced to a complex man who juggled many fields including his most well known the
World of Birds and Nature.

All listeners will gain insights to a unique individual.



This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating, great narration

I received the book for no cost on condition I'd give an honest review, and while I found this book a fascinating read, I have some qualms. The book was excellent in tracing the facts of a life that were "massaged" to give JJA the social credentials he felt he needed to have. It covered meticulously the slow up-hill trudge he had to endure over many years to be taken seriously as a professional artist and naturalist. It even gave an early example of what would today be called "branding", as Audubon outlived and outworked his competitors to achieve the notoriety that he sought, at no small expense to the attention he could pay to his children and wife. These were details that the book returns to and knits into the narrative of Audubon's life, as no doubt they were formative aspects of how his life is perceived by later generations.

Where the book would have been more useful to me is in explaining not how Audubon made history, but how history made the man. My preference would be to learn much more about how Audubon was a man of his time. What historical frame made it easy for him to be so racist toward slaves and Native Americans, why an interest in nature was a "thing" such that it gave rise to his interest in birds, and how his values were shaped regarding the centrality that "science" and discovery played in his life. These were major forces, and they are covered in other books about the era Audubon lived in, but they were not invented by him, rather he was invented by them. Not nearly enough attention is given to this, as the author explores Audubon's values in the context of what we today would find acceptable or immoral.

Doing this would allow us to learn from history about how, using Audubon's life as an example, we are also shaped by our cultural environment. What about our time makes us prone to assessing people who lived a century and a half ago by our values, as though they are eternally right, and are these so dissimilar from the way Audubon assumed his values were also eternally right? It would be a good idea to retain some humility about this, yet this book - not unlike many university published books - is also looking to establish itself among its own audience, just like Audubon made compromises to establish himself among his own professional colleagues.

The book attempted to examine Audubon as a byproduct of his culture by going into some depth into the "hunting ethic" that allowed Audubon to hunt animals to draw them, such that hunting an animal to eat it was disparaged and hunting as a means to build social connections across classes was a motivation of it, but the book is too light in this regard for other matters, in my judgment, to its fault.

The narrator did a great job - it's not a simple matter to read history in a way that keeps listeners engaged, but he did it well.

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John J Audubon

I found this to be entertaining and very informative.I did not realize that Mr. Audubon was born in the 1700's.It was interesting to learn what people thought of bird song and migration patterns in those early years. T. Anthony Quinn was a fine narrator.I was given this book by the narrator,author or publisher free for an honest review.

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The Legend. The Simple Man. The Complicated Man.

I didn't know a lot about the man himself, just about THE BOOK -- The Birds of America. My mom was a bird lover and had the book on the coffee table when we were growing up. What a dramatic testament to nature and to art, he was. And still loved today. There's a reason we all know his name. He left us with many gifts.

This a very well-written story of the man behind THE BOOK. Who was this guy? He was also a painter, a businessman and one heckuva writer. The "American Woodsman" will live on forever. We may never know all there is to know about the man, but we will always have the gifts he gave us.

Great story, great narration, loved it! :)
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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A Wonderful Listen!

Gregory Nobles takes us on a wonderful journey to learn about John James Audubon, his life and achievements. It was really great to learn more about this iconic man. I grew up knowing of his adventure to capture the many birds of this country but I didn't hear about much else. This book allowed me to learn about the many other facets of John J Audubon. If you've ever wanted to know more about this great nature lover then you should get this book. It's very well written and Mr. Nobles has done his research! The narration was wonderfully done as well. T Anthony Quinn read a really nice pace and helped to enrich the story experience. Overall, a really great work that is a pleasure to listen to.

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Painstakingly Thorough

Mr Nobles obviously did his research. He spends a great deal of time helping us to understand the mystery surrounding Audubon’s birth year, birthplace and birth mother. We are made to feel like the companion Audubon craved for and had in mind as he worked on his life work (catalog of American Birds 400+ plates). We can’t help but feel his frustration as he struggled to be known as an artist/scientist and searched for subscribers for his $700+ 5 volume collection, where each vol weighed 50 pounds!

He was a world traveler and forever a dreamer.

T Anthony Quinn has amazing chops! Excellent narration. I would very much enjoy watching a documentary performed by him.

I was given a free copy of this audiobook. My review is voluntarily given