A global tragedy is unfolding. Even as we are coming to understand them, the number of seabirds on our planet is in freefall, dropping by nearly 70% in the last sixty years, a billion fewer now than there were in 1950. Of the ten birds in this book, seven are in decline, at least in part of their range. Extinction stalks the ocean and there is a danger that the grand cry of the seabird colony, rolling around the bays and headlands of high latitudes, will this century become little but a memory.
Seabirds have always entranced the human imagination and NYT best-selling author Adam Nicolson has been in love with them all his life: for their mastery of wind and ocean, their aerial beauty and the unmatched wildness of the coasts and islands where every summer they return to breed. The seabird’s cry comes from an elemental layer in the story of the world.
Over the last couple of decades, modern science has begun to understand their epic voyages, their astonishing abilities to navigate for tens of thousands of miles on featureless seas, their ability to smell their way towards fish and home. Only the poets in the past would have thought of seabirds as creatures riding the ripples and currents of the entire planet, but that is what the scientists are seeing now today.
Adam Nicolson sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as the foundation myths of Greek—and our—consciousness, collapsing the passage of 4,000 years and making the distant past of the Mediterranean world as immediate to us as the events of our own time.
Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the poems themselves and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts."
The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea, but emerging at a time around 2000 B.C. when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.