Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Hogs Wild by Ian Frazier

A couple of years ago, I introduced a different Ian Frazier book in a way I don't think I could top if I tried. So, let me quote myself:

Ian Frazier is a long-time New Yorker writer, and one of the few who straddles the line between the two kinds of writing they're known best for: serious, boots-on-the-ground reportage full of checked facts and quotes, on the one hand, and whimsical, throw-these-two-odd-facts-together-at-high-speed humor pieces.
Hogs Wild is from the serious side of Frazier; it's a collection of reported pieces from various magazines -- but probably mostly The New Yorker, where he's on staff -- from roughly the decade-and-a-half before its 2016 publication.

It's a miscellany, obviously: almost two dozen stories of various lengths, from some short enough to have been "Shouts & Murmurs" up to what look like feature articles for Outside. Frazier is a get-out-and-look-at-that-thing kind of writer, so most of these are about him going somewhere to investigate something. But some trips are a drive to Staten Island from Montclair, New Jersey (where he lives) and some are longer expeditions to spend time chasing feral hogs in Georgia or fly-fishing on the Deschutes River. Frazier mixes up the lengths and topics; Hogs Wild has no obvious organizing structure, but flows like a good record album, one piece rhyming with or extending the one before it.

Frazier is an excellent writer of the quiet, unflashy school -- you'll rarely catch him trying to show off. (Though he can do it, and do it well.) He's interesting and chooses topics that are interesting to begin with. He's deeply concerned about the natural world, and human-created changes to that world, but comes at that concern from an outdoorsman's viewpoint rather than an apocalyptician's.

And Hogs Wild is a diverse collection of his mature, recent work. It's a great book for people who want to read about true things in a real world.

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