The Tangled Bank
Robert Michael Pyle
"It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us…”
--Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Robert Michael Pyle’s “Tangled Bank” column appeared in 52 consecutive issues of Orion and Orion Afield magazines between 1997 and 2008. Each essay collected in The Tangled Bank explores Charles Darwin’s contention that the elements of such a bank, and by extension all the living world, are endlessly interesting and ever evolving.
Pyle’s thoughtful and concise narratives range in subject from hops and those who love them to independent bookstores to the monarchs of Mexico. In each piece, Pyle refutes “the idea that the world is a boring place,” sharing his meticulous observations of the endless and fascinating details of the living earth.
“…As George Eliot told us, the best way to care for the world, ‘to save the earth’s character as an agreeable planet,’ is to take delight in it. ‘The Tangled Bank’ was my lucky invitation to share with readers the delight I take in the world every day I live in it.” –Robert Michael Pyle, from the Prologue, “The Fern Wall”
About the author
Robert Michael Pyle is the author of Mariposa Road, Chasing Monarchs, Where Bigfoot Walks, and Wintergreen, which received a John Burroughs Medal. He lives in Southwest Washington.
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“The Tangled Bank was a deeply pleasurable read, a reminder of what’s important in my own life as an observer of the natural world. The book evoked a sense of hope that we can all live like this, engaged, responsive, awake to the beauty around us.” —Sharman Apt Russell, author of Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist
“These essays, each a multifaceted gem, convey an exuberant sense of what it feels like to encounter the greater-than-human world with senses alert and mind engaged. And what a mind! Equally at ease in science and art, in philosophy and fun, Robert Michael Pyle is curious and knowledgeable about all manner of living things, from butterflies to bats, from bioluminescent plankton to the yeast in beer. If you can’t go afield with him, go a-page. You will not find a livelier companion.” —Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and A Conservationist Manifesto