Let down by shallow friends when he seeks commiseration, he mimes Holden Caulfield's anguished wisecracks.
Although many of his works are factual chronicles of his travels through America and foreign lands, he writes freely, inserting many digressions and asides.The more Ben's following increases, the more author Hoagland gets caught up in the whirling dervish of his own prose.Finally Ben becomes a real Pied Piper to his nimble mouse pack….Citing an unwavering allegiance to what’s alive, Hoagland believes that “heaven is here and the only heaven we have.” The author is less concerned with his own demise than with the larger unraveling of the world, and these glimmering essays avoid nostalgia or self-pity by focusing on his various entanglements, with past lovers and wives, Tibetan yak herders, a Ugandan family and the circus aerialists with whom he worked 60 years ago.Hoagland possesses the rare quality of being both thirsty to absorb knowledge and experiences and also, organically, to want to pass along what he’s discovered., for a result that, again, will draw comparisons to Thoreau.Another great naturalist, John Muir, once wrote, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” There might not be a more apropos line to describe this book, which not only finds Hoagland reminiscing on his many widespread adventures exploring the globe in years past, but also on the connectedness between the destruction of the planet, his mortality and aging, failed love relationships and his impassioned, sometimes polemical but always articulate, brilliant thoughts on humans’ abdication of responsibility to protect nature.In addition to Cat Man, Hoagland has published two other novels, The Circle Home (1960) and The Peacock's Tail (1965), which are generally considered less successful than his essays. Up to now circus fiction has almost always dealt with performers.Yet there is a vast, living mechanism, lubricated with sweat, blood and cheap wine, without which the big top could never be torn down, loaded, moved and set up again."A list of the top ten essayists since 1950 would feature some different writers." We were interested to see that six of the ten best essays are available for free reading online.Here is Atwan's list, along with links to those essays that are on the Web: "To my mind," writes Atwan in his article, "the best essays are deeply personal (that doesn't necessarily mean autobiographical) and deeply engaged with issues and ideas.