Pandora’s Garden profiles invasive or unwanted species in the natural world and examines how our treatment of these creatures sometimes parallels in surprising ways how we treat each other. Part essay, part nature writing, part narrative nonfiction, the chapters in Pandora’s Garden are like the biospheres of the globe; as the successive chapters unfold, they blend together like ecotones, creating a microcosm of the world in which we sustain nonhuman lives but also contain them.
There are many reasons particular flora and fauna may be unwanted, from the physical to the psychological. Sometimes they may possess inherent qualities that when revealed help us to interrogate human perception and our relationship to an unwanted other. Pandora’s Garden is primarily about creatures that humans don’t get along with, such as rattlesnakes and sharks, but the chapters also take on a range of other subjects, including stolen children in Australia, the treatment of illegal immigrants in Texas, and the disgust function of the human limbic system. Peters interweaves these diverse subjects into a whole that mirrors the evolving and interrelated world whose surprises and oddities he delights in revealing.
I see books such as Peters’s as an expression of our Zeitgeist. I have the clear notion Pandora’s Garden
is necessary. In an era that some scientists have dubbed the Anthropocene, we need a clear understanding of the persistent power of what we call nature—whether that power is deemed ‘invasive’ or otherwise. Pandora’s Garden
is essential reading for anyone who loves a beautiful essay and also for those who seek to learn. Peters's topics are quirky, and his research is strong. He’s that rare breed of self-critical environmentalist, and we need that in order to keep a balanced concern with the environment alive.
—BK Loren, author of Animal, Mineral, Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food
The world is changing. Clinton Crockett Peters recognizes that as many species may disappear in the next century as did in the great dinosaur extinction. While that will lead to much despair, Peters argues that this is also a great time to recognize what species will adapt, how humans will appreciate what’s left, and how life, like Kudzu, finds a way. While there is some eulogizing for lost species, there is also celebration of life’s, even a cockroach’s, sweet ability to adjust and survive. The humor, the amount of research, and the way Peters weaves together his personal story with this global one make this not only a unique book but also a playful, engrossing one.
—Nicole Walker, author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt
I find it refreshing that Peters focuses outward, on things in the world independent of the self. What’s more, the writing is a pleasant blend of the clearly informational and the artfully lyrical, which helps with its purpose to get readers thinking not just about the nominal subjects (invasive species), but about people’s treatment of each other. Yet Peters doesn’t preach and doesn’t scold. He gently explores and asks questions. It’s quite a moving book.
—Patrick Madden, author of Sublime Physick: Essays
Clinton Crockett Peters is part of the new breed of environmental writers who are clear-eyed and startling in their reframing of the old, ever-depressing news that we are failing in our duty as caretakers of the planet. His writing is never preachy nor overly earnest. He writes lyrically but authoritatively, as always the clear-eyed observer filled with an elegiac spirit. He will undoubtedly soon be compared to our best writers of nature from Annie Dillard to Barry Lopez to Gretel Ehrlich.
—Robin Hemley, author of Reply All: Stories
is a compelling bestiary of overlooked and misunderstood individuals, from Asian carp to cockroaches, Godzilla to kudzu. Extensively researched and deeply considered, Clint Peters’s debut collection shows us the great emotional range of the oft-dismissed. When you turn the last page, close the cover, and walk out your door, the world you live in will buzz with a new kind of music—fresh tunes that these essays have taught you to hear.
—Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
From species to species, with a mix of the clinician’s eye and the storyteller’s voice, Peters creates a sense of wonderment about his subjects.
—Jonathan Liebson, Texas Observer
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, with his list of weird animals, insects, fish, reptiles and plants — Florida panthers to cockroaches, rattlesnakes to stinking cedar. He brings the literary canon into the essays, freely connecting to sources ranging from news reports and magazine articles to the Bible. Even a literal fallen sparrow, for a meditation on life, death and kids.
—Christine Heinrichs, Society of Environmental Journalist Journal
In Pandora’s Garden
Peters proves himself a masterful storyteller, collapsing millennia and expanding single moments in a way that makes ecological and sociological phenomena fell immediate, inseparable, and deeply important. . . .It’s also in this spirit that he suggests human stories offer possibilities we’ve never needed to imagine, and that we’ve seen in everything on Earth.
—Emily Block, Blackbird