We cannot speak of its loneliness, but it must be Britain’s most solitary animal. For the last 16 years, every winter, a male greater mouse-eared bat has taken up residence 300 metres inside a disused and exceedingly damp railway tunnel in West Sussex. The greater mouse-eared bat has been all but extinct in this country for decades. This is the only remaining one we know of. The future of the species in Britain appears to rest with one long-lived and very distinctive individual.
The greater mouse-eared bat is so large that observers who first discovered it in Britain likened one to a young rabbit hanging from a wall. In flight, its wings can stretch to nearly half a metre – an astonishing spectacle in a land where bats are generally closer to the size of the rodent that inspired their old name: flittermouse.
Of course I wanted to forget. I wanted to forget the same way that I want to forget I have a heart murmur (surely this will be the year I finally get that checked on). I wanted to forget the same way that I want to forget about the hurricanes that get worse every year and the coastlines that are crumbling fast, fast, faster. I wanted to forget because I knew in my bones that being queer meant my time was going to be short, and the time I had wasn’t going to be good.
I knew because I’d read the stories. The girls who fall in love and wind up dead; the boys who get to kiss just once onscreen before one of them is Taken Away. The queer-coded villains who are evil enough to deserve what they get at the end of the movie. The beatings, and the disownings, and the corrective rapes, and the suicides, and the murders, the murders, the murders.
Of course I wanted to forget.
For his part, King accepts the reality of “being dismissed by the more intellectual critics as a hack,” though he points out that “the intellectual’s definition of a hack seems to be ‘an artist whose work is appreciated by too many people.’” Indeed, few such reviewers pause to ask why we find King haunting airports, train stations, and bus terminals around the world. Fewer still seem to realize that many of King’s readers seek their escape in his sinister storyworlds precisely because of the plain, unremarkable, yet profoundly disturbing “us” he presents. Reflected there in his dark mirror, we see shades of ourselves.
There is no right way to get to know America. I’ve seen patches of it over the years by car, by bicycle, by train, by bus and by foot. All of those modes of transportation have their pluses and minuses. These days, it’s by air that I usually get around, which generally means leaving one metropolis and then arriving in another. One sizable drawback of this approach, of course, is too much interesting countryside is flown over at high altitude, and thus ignored.
James and Deborah Fallows came up with a reasonably efficient way of delving into the country’s guts. They splurged for a small propeller airplane, which they then piloted hither and yon, not to the major transit hubs we all come and go from in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Chicago but to small landing strips in and around places like Holland, Mich.; St. Marys, Ga.; Allentown, Pa.; Charleston, W.Va.; Guymon, Okla.; and Chester, Mont.
The separation of art from science — largely at the hands of scientists themselves to preserve their rigor — has created a dangerous by-product: a distance from the environmental dangers and threats that paint our landscape. In her lyrical and fact-packed investigative effort, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Elizabeth Rush successfully attempts to bridge the gap between the scientific and a terrifying aesthetic by studying the effects of sea level rise on seaside communities and marginalized groups of people.