Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book reviews

The best reviewer of books with trees in them (and other books as well) is hitting the reviews.

In celebration, I reprint one of the all time greatest book reviews, by Ed Zern,

"Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoorminded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways of controlling vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper. Unfortunately one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion this book can not take the place of J. R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeping."

from "Hunting and Fishing from A to Zern".


Chad Love said...

Oh, man do I miss Ed Zern.

I started reading "Exit Laughing" back when I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, and it was still funny.

And when I finally got old enough to start comprehending (and appreciating) the deadpan, it became the first thing I read every month.

It was Zern, Tarrant, Hill and then everyone else.

I've always thought Zern's columns were as sophisticated as anything you'd read in the New Yorker, and I believe Petzal argued the same in his intro to Bill Heavey's book (at least I think I remember him saying something like that).

But of course columns like that are now as dead as the literary devices of contemplation and nuance...

mdmnm said...


We got Outdoor Life, so I was more of a Pat McManus reader and only caught Zern when I went to the barbershop. On the other hand, I got "Hunting and Fishing from A to Zern" when I was about 14 and tore through it.

Agree on the sophistication. I think it's interesting that even in Gray's the editors frequently seem to write down a bit. Occasionally one finds good snark on the web, but seldom as subtle as Zern. I recall one of his q&a columns where the guy wrote in about problems with his wife & bird dog, the former of whom claimed one of the two was going to go. Zern's reply was along the lines of "Since trajectory is not a concern in this situation, we recommend a .35 Remington 200 grain load".

Borepatch said...

That's just outstanding.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Still a classic! And the book is pretty good too.

Steve Bodio said...

Belated thanks for the compliment. Ever read Zern's parody of Corbett in To Hell with Hunting?

Tom McIntyre once told me that even erudite Dave Petzal asked him to take a Nabokov reference-- to Lolita no less-- out because nobody would get it but the two of them. And Jim Babb-- a fine editor and writer-- has more constraints on him than Ed Gray ever did.

mdmnm said...



"To Hell With Hunting" is another great one.

I bet Petzal would have been surprised how many readers would have gotten the Nabakov reference, but then, since he no doubt knows his readers, perhaps not. Gray's is better nowadays, but still a shadow of the Ed Gray years.