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Gessner, David 1961-

Gessner, David 1961-

PERSONAL:

Born March 15, 1961, in Cambridge, MA; son of David Marshall and Barbara Gessner; married Nina de Gramont, March 1, 1996. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1983; University of Colorado, M.A., 1998. Hobbies and other interests: Ultimate frisbee, biking, cartooning.

ADDRESSES:

Home—East Dennis, MA. Office—University of North Carolina, Wilmington, 601 S. College Rd., Wilmington, NC 28403. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]; www.ospreyworld.com.

CAREER:

Writer and educator. University of North Carolina, Wilmington, assistant professor, 2003—. Former Briggs-Copeland Lecturer, Harvard University.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Bread Loaf Writers' Conference fellow; Intro to Journals Award, Associated Writing Programs; Pushcart Prize, 2006, for essay "Benediction"; John Burroughs Award for best essay, 2007, for "Learning to Surf."

WRITINGS:

A Wild, Rank Place: One Year on Cape Cod (essays), University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1997.

Under the Devil's Thumb (memoir), University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1999.

Return of the Osprey: A Season of Flight and Wonder, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2001.

Sick of Nature, Dartmouth College Press (Hanover, NH), 2004.

The Prophet of Dry Hill: Lessons from a Life in Nature (memoir), Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2005.

Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2007.

Contributor of essays to periodicals, including the Georgia Review, American Scholar, Orion, Boston Sunday Globe, and the Harvard Review. Author's essay "Benediction" was featured in the 2006 Pushcart Prize Anthology. Editor of Ecotone.

SIDELIGHTS:

David Gessner writes primarily about nature in the form of personal memoir. In his first book, A Wild, Rank Place: One Year on Cape Cod, he presents a year's worth of essays written while living in his family's home. The various topics range from his father's death from cancer and the author's own encounter with the disease to his walks through local natural habitats and his ruminations on various writers, including Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau. "On the warp and woof of death, he weaves a wonderful tapestry depicting his literary ancestors and the chill magnetism of the famous Massachusetts peninsula," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor. In a review of A Wild, Rank Place in Booklist, George Cohen commented that the author provides readers with "a heightened understanding of both nature and ourselves."

Gessner's next book, Under the Devil's Thumb, focuses on the author's move, after battling cancer, from Cape Cod to Boulder, Colorado, and his subsequent exploration of the Rocky Mountains and the West. Tim J. Markus wrote in the Library Journal that Gessner's "joy in life and the outdoors … [is] contagious."

Return of the Osprey: A Season of Flight and Wonder is a meditation on and description of the ospreys with a particular focus on four pair of ospreys who nest near Gessner's childhood home on Cape Cod. The author follows the ospreys as they build their nests (which include various man-made materials and garbage) and provide for their young. He also describes the young ospreys' maturation and eventual departure when nesting season in the north is over. As with most of Gessner's writings, there are personal elements to the story as he discusses his family and recounts his encounters with noted ornithologist Alan Poole and renowned nature writer John Hay. Rachel Dickinson, writing in Animal, noted that, in the course of researching and writing the book, the author "learns as much about himself and his family as he does about the osprey." Audubon contributor Christopher Camuto wrote that the author "offers a satisfying, vivid account."

In Sick of Nature, Gessner provides a series of interrelated essays looking back on his own life and family coupled with discourses on the natural environs of Cape Cod. A prime theme of the essays is what the author learned from living a life close to nature. "The book reads like a novel and reaches a satisfying conclusion," noted Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman in the Library Journal.

The Prophet of Dry Hill: Lessons from a Life in Nature is a memoir of a year that Gessner spent with John Hay, a noted naturalist who has lived in the Cape Cod wilderness for sixty years. The author writes of his growing friendship with Hay and of their mutual interest in nature and sorrow over the increasing development of Cape Cod. Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, commented that the author acquaints readers with "Hay's magnificent contributions to the art of nature writing." A California Bookwatch contributor referred to The Prophet of Dry Hill as a "treasured collection of … seasoned observations on nature."

Gessner writes about following a flock of migrating ospreys in his book Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond, which OnEarth contributor George Black noted is "filled with small delights." Despite the book's title and basic premise, however, Gessner believes that Soaring with Fidel is really "about the nature of human happiness," as noted by George Cohen in Booklist. The birds' migratory path is followed by the author and a British Broadcasting Corporation crew making a film about the birds. In addition to describing the birds, Gessner writes about the various people he meets during the journey. "This is a thoughtful and loving examination of these beautiful creatures," wrote Cohen, who insisted that the book is about the birds. Referring to the author as "a charming, literate maverick," Library Journal contributor Henry T. Armistead went on to write that he "engagingly takes the reader" along with him on the journey.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Gessner, David, A Wild, Rank Place: One Year on Cape Cod, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1997.

Gessner, David, Under the Devil's Thumb, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 1999.

Gessner, David, The Prophet of Dry Hill: Lessons from a Life in Nature, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 2005.

PERIODICALS

American Biology Teacher, May, 2002, Edward J. Kormondy, review of Return of the Osprey: A Season of Flight and Wonder, p. 386.

Animals, spring, 2001, Rachel Dickinson, review of Return of the Osprey.

Audubon, May, 2001, Christopher Camuto, review of Return of the Osprey, p. 102.

Booklist, March 15, 1997, George Cohen, review of A Wild, Rank Place, p. 1208; February 1, 2001, Nancy Bent, review of Return of the Osprey, p. 1028; September 1, 2005, Carol Haggas, review of The Prophet of Dry Hill, p. 33; January 1, 2007, George Cohen, review of Soaring with Fidel: An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond, p. 34.

California Bookwatch, May, 2006, review of The Prophet of Dry Hill,.

Choice, July-August, 2001, C. Leck, review of Return of the Osprey, p. 1986.

Georgia Review, summer, 1998, Douglas Carlson, review of A Wild, Rank Place.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Soaring with Fidel, p. 61.

Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Tim J. Markus, review of Under the Devil's Thumb, p. 124; February 15, 2001, Tim McKimmie, review of Return of the Osprey, p. 196; July, 2004, Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, review of Sick of Nature, p. 113; March 1, 2007, Henry T. Armistead, review of Soaring with Fidel, p. 101.

OnEarth, spring, 2007, George Black, review of Soaring with Fidel.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1997, review of A Wild, Rank Place, p. 74; February 12, 2001, review of Return of the Osprey, p. 193; January 29, 2007, review of Soaring with Fidel, p. 53.

Science News, May 12, 2007, review of Soaring with Fidel, p. 303.

ONLINE

David Gessinger Home Page,http://www.davidgessner.com (August 16, 2007).

Ospreyworld.com,http://www.ospreyworld.com (August 16, 2007), brief biography of author.

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