In “The Opossum — America’s National Shame,” Lorentson chronicles the behavior and appearance of this “poor excuse for an animal,” characterizing it as a “65 million year old reminder of what happens when you don’t even try.” He surveys more serious topics as well, though his humorous style still dominates. “Still Life with Automobile” muses on the changes wrought from inventing the wheel, namely the deadly effects of that advancement on the natural world: “our cars and roads are turning the U.S. into a drive-through natural history museum” he observes. Similarly, he bemoans the fate of Earth’s trees, now down to “only 375 trees per person,” candidly remaking that without serious efforts to slow climate change, humans will “soon have to join a tree safari to find them.”
Though humor forms the backbone of the collection, Lorentson still aims to deliver accurate scientific information, including extensive referencing for his claims. The punny wordplay and dense witticisms may not tickle every funny bone, but fans of tongue-in-cheek comedy will savor the laughs. Throughout, Lorentson pits humans against nature—respectfully, if slightly mocking—and readers will find themselves rooting for nature in the end, as he astutely observes, “Nature always seemed so big, and humans so insignificant… Maybe when nature is imaginary it will finally get better ratings.”
Takeaway: Humorous look at humans’ effect on the environment.
Comparable Titles: Randall Munroe’s What If?, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+