Wallace, David Rains 1945–
Wallace, David Rains 1945–
PERSONAL: Born August 10, 1945, in Charlottesville, VA; son of Sebon Rains (a psychologist) and Sarah Wallace; married Elizabeth Ann Kendall (an artist), July 3, 1975. Education: Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, B.A. (cum laude), 1967; graduate study at Columbia University, 1967–68; Mills College, M.A., 1974. Politics: Democrat.
ADDRESSES: Home—Berkeley, CA.
CAREER: Writer, naturalist, and educator. Metropolitan Park District of Columbus and Franklin County, Columbus, OH, public information specialist, 1974–78; freelance writer, 1978–. Creative writing teacher at extension centers, University of California, Berkeley, 1988–89; Ohio University summer seminars, 1988–89. Writing consultant, Oakland Museum Human Ecology exhibit, 1987–.
Visiting lecturer, scholar, reader, or teacher at universities and institutions, including Siskiyou Field Institute, University of California, Davis, College of the Sequoias, Oregon State University at Eugene, University of Utah, and Dade County Community College. Panelist on nature writing at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, 2006.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1979–80; Silver Medal, Californiana category, Commonwealth Club of California, 1979, for The Dark Range: A Naturalist's Night Notebook, and 1984, for The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution; Ohioana Award, science category, 1981, for Idle Weeds: The Life of a Sandstone Ridge; John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing, 1984, for The Klamath Knot; Fulbright Creative Writing Fellowship, 1990; Ohioana Award, Science Category, 1990, for Bulow Hammock: Mind in a Forest; New York Times Notable Book of the Year, 1997, for The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, and 2004, for Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution; "Twentieth Century's Best 100 Nonfiction Books West of the Rockies San Francisco Chronicle, 1999, for The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution; finalist, PEN West Award for nonfiction, 1999, for The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age.
The Dark Range: A Naturalist's Night Notebook, illustrations by Roger Bayless, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1978.
Idle Weeds: The Life of a Sandstone Ridge, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1980.
The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1983.
The Wilder Shore, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1984.
The Turquoise Dragon (novel), Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1985.
The Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 1986.
Life in the Balance: A Companion Volume to Audubon Television Specials, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Bulow Hammock: Mind in a Forest, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1989.
The Vermillion Parrot (novel), Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1990.
The Quetzal and the Macaw: The Story of Costa Rica's National Parks, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1992.
The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1997.
The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Yellowstone, Division of Publications, National Park Service (Washington, DC), 2001.
Mammoth Cave: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, Division of Publications, Harpers Ferry Center, National Park Service (Washington, DC), 2003.
Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2004.
Neptune's Ark: From Ichthyosaurs to Orcas, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2007.
Author of a nature column for Berkeley Monthly, 1978–80. Also author of The Curious Naturalists, National Geographic Books. Contributor to journals and newspapers, including Sierra, Zyzzyva, Wilderness, West Coast, Country Journal, Ohio Sierran, Mother Jones, New York Times Book Review, Pacific Discovery, Los Angeles Times, Bay Nature, and Image. Consultant editor of The Walker's Companion, Weldon Owen (Sydney, Australia), 1995.
SIDELIGHTS: David Rains Wallace "is a mature, professional nature writer at the height of his analytical and interpretive powers, an author who has crafted a prose style that enables him to write with ease and facility on subjects as diverse as the Okefenokee Swamp, the wilds of Alaska, nature in Japan, the hills of Ohio, and the forests of northern California," John Murray related in the Bloomsbury Review. A number of Wallace's books have won critical acclaim and literary prizes, including two Silver Medals in the Californiana category from the Commonwealth Club of California.
The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution, Wallace's second Silver Medal winner, explores a unique tract of wilderness along the California-Oregon border. Commenting on Wallace's work, Clifford D. May wrote in the New York Times Book Review: "He spins intriguing scientific tales and tosses out some delightful tidbits of arcana." A Publishers Weekly reviewer added: "This is a rare and imaginative introduction to a wilderness that links past and present; Wallace belongs to the first rank of science writers."
Of Wallace's chosen genre, Murray commented: "At its best, nature writing is capable of achieving the qualities of all good literature: universality, depth of feeling, and personal revelation. Nature writers like Wallace are more than interpreters and field guides, they are highly skilled artists creating with a deceptive simplicity in a form that has not even come close to being exhausted…. Gifted writers like Wallace … are trying to transcend our cultural alienation from nature, and often they succeed brilliantly."
Life in the Balance: A Companion Volume to Audubon Television Specials, a collection of essays about nature under siege, also succeeds, David M. Graber noted in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "Although Wallace makes every effort to be upbeat, to teach the lesson that nature can be saved and is worth saving, the sickening destruction that our species has wrought and continues to wreak on this planet is hard to present cheerfully," Graber wrote. Despite their often depressing subject matter, Graber felt these essays constitute "an excellent argument for conservation."
In Bulow Hammock: Mind in a Forest, Wallace looks at an unpopular Florida swamp with an eye to what it can reveal about the human brain. Washington Post Book World reviewer Dennis Drabelle related that in this "challenging book," Wallace suggests that "the human mind has an innate receptivity to shadowy, fecund places like hammocks." New York Times Book Review contributor Jack Rudloe appreciated other aspects of the book more than the analogy. Rudloe particularly recommended the author's vivid descriptions of local wildlife, and his extended comparison of John Audubon's and John Muir's perceptions of the Florida ecosystem.
The varied ecosystems of Central America are the subject of The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America. In a book that is "part travelogue, part natural history, part historical account and part bio-geographical treatise," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the book "is a panoramic look at fascinating territory from an able, amusing guide." Wallace's book is based on his extensive travels in Central America. He made nine trips there over a twenty-four-year period, exploring reefs, rain forests, volcanos and more. His observations have been formed into an "impressive yet compact book," asserted Gloria Maxwell in the Library Journal. "Written in an engaging style, this is a valuable resource for conservationists, ecotourists, evolutionists, and anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating region."
In The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age, the author steps back in time to recreate the infamous feud between two great nineteenth-century paleontologists, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. The two men uncovered and named most of this country's fossilized creatures. Both men were from wealthy families and well able to finance expensive expeditions. Ruthlessly competitive, they drove each other on to new discoveries, but they stooped to unethical methods to discredit one another. "Wallace does an excellent job … [revealing] the ruthless feud that drove them both to destruction," observed Gloria Maxwell in the Library Journal, adding that The Bonehunters' Revenge offers "an important viewpoint" to Marsh and Cope's story.
In Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution, Wallace turns from dinosaurs to their successful rivals with a story of the early history of the small, warm-blooded creatures that rose to dominate the planet after the fall of the Mesozoic "terrible lizards." Wallace uses the notable Age of Mammals mural at Yale's Peabody Museum as the springboard for his detailed discussion of the long-ago emergence and gradual evolution of Earth's mammalian life forms. He looks carefully at the scientists, researchers, and thinkers who developed theories of mammal evolution over the years, complete with accounts of the brilliant scholarship, bitter rivalries, and shameless chicanery that accompanied the burgeoning field of mammal paleontology. Wallace describes the startlingly unusual creatures that flourished in the wake of the dinosaurs and the eccentric scientists who discovered their fossils and constructed theories of their lives and development. Wallace assembles the "best theories here to tell the story of mammalian discovery and evolution," noted a reviewer in Science News. "Paleontology buffs will not be the only ones entranced; this charming story, skillfully told, will appeal to history and biography fans," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor concluded that Wallace's work "opens a wondrous window on paleontology's investigations of the origin of mammals." Wallace "reminds us that natural selection runs a close race with chance," commented Gloria Maxwell in the Library Journal.
In addition to being a prolific science writer, Wallace is also a novelist. His first novel, The Turquoise Dragon, introduces recurring character George Kilgore and is an environmentally themed mystery story. In The Vermillion Parrot, Kilgore returns for another science-fiction tinged adventure featuring a five-foot tall parrot, government conspiracies, and Czechoslovakian spies. Finding the towering parrot by accident, Kilgore discovers that the bird is a closely guarded government secret. To his surprise, the bird can talk, and he discovers that it is an ancient space traveler, stuck on Earth since prehistoric times. With the bird in tow, and accompanied by Czech spy Jill, Kilgore tries to say one step ahead of the federal agents on his tail while working on a project involving endangered California condors. Wallace also offers ironic observations on overwrought environmentalists who worry that their fast-food order will harm the environment, and on fair-weather nature lovers who cannot commit to a course of action. "The novel scores points for imagination but the plot is as tangled as a piece of environmental legislation," remarked Sybil Steinberg in a Publishers Weekly review.
Wallace told CA: "My writing arises from a fascination with this planet—its climate, waters, rocks, soils, plants, and animals. I want to awaken readers to the fact that we remain a part of the biosphere, that we cannot destroy it without destroying ourselves." More recently, he commented: "In the five or so years since I wrote the above, the fact of human-natural interdependence has become increasingly, frighteningly obvious. But I want to show that this fact is not only cause for fear, but also for joy that we can't save the planet without saving ourselves."
Wallace later told CA: "As to which book is my favorite and why, I would say that the book I'm working on usually is—but that, overall, The Klamath Knot is, because it has been readers'. Books signify when read, and signify most when they incite to action. Many have read The Klamath Knot, and some have been incited to try to protect the Klamath Mountain bioregion. Unfortunately, given the recent politico-economic climate, the region is not much better protected now than when I wrote the book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bloomsbury Review, July, 1988, reviews of The Dark Range: A Naturalist's Night Notebook, Idle Weeds: The Life of a Sandstone Ridge, The Klamath Knot: Explorations of Myth and Evolution, and The Turquoise Dragon, p. 23.
Booklist, May 15, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Beasts of Eden: Walking Whales, Dawn Horses, and Other Enigmas of Mammal Evolution, p. 1586.
Library Journal, October 1, 1980, Joseph Hannibal, review of Idle Weeds, p. 2094; February 1, 1983, review of The Klamath Knot, p. 66; March 1, 1985, review of The Turquoise Dragon, p. 106; September 1, 1987, Randy Dykhuis, review of Life in the Balance: A Companion Volume to Audubon Television Specials, p. 172; March 1, 1988, Ellis Mount and Barbara A. List, review of Life in the Balance, p. 29; June 15, 1991, Jackie Cassada, review of The Vermillion Parrot, p. 109; April 1, 1992, Ruth N. Mara, review of The Quetzal and the Macaw: The Story of Costa Rica's National Parks, p. 144; August, 1997, Gloria Maxwell, review of The Monkey's Bridge: Mysteries of Evolution in Central America, p. 124; September 15, 1999, Gloria Maxwell, review of The Bonehunters' Revenge: Dinosaurs, Greed, and the Greatest Scientific Feud of the Gilded Age, p. 109; May 1, 2004, Gloria Maxwell, review of Beasts of Eden, p. 138.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 6, 1987, David M. Graber, review of Life in the Balance.
New York Times Book Review, April 7, 1985, Jason Berry, review of The Turquoise Dragon, p. 14; January 3, 1988, Charles Bowden, review of Drylands: The Deserts of North America, p. 18; May 8, 1988, Frederika Randall, review of Life in the Balance, p. 20; April 16, 1989, Jack Rudloe, review of Bulow Hammock: Mind in a Forest, p. 28; October 26, 1997, Wade Davis, review of The Monkey's Bridge, p. 26; November 7, 1999, John Noble Wilford, "The Fossil Wars: An Account of the 19th-Century Feud between Two Scientists," review of The Bonehunters' Revenge, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, August 22, 1980, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Idle Weeds, p. 36; September 21, 1984, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Wilder Shore, p. 82; January 11, 1985, review of The Turquoise Dragon, p. 66; August 28, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Drylands, p. 60; January 6, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Bulow Hammock, p. 84; April 16, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Vermillion Parrot, p. 48; September 8, 1997, review of The Monkey's Bridge, p. 67; September 20, 1999, review of The Bonehunters' Revenge, p. 58; April 19, 2004, review of Beasts of Eden, p. 57.
Science News, September 18, 2004, review of Beasts of Eden, p. 191.
Washington Post Book World, March 13, 1983, review of The Klamath Knot, p. 6; April 9, 1989, Dennis Drabelle, "The Evidence of Things Seen,"review of Bulow Hammock.