. John Tallmadge | Exploring Nature, Culture, and the Human Journey
The creator loves pizzaz. - Annie Dillard


The Cincinnati Arch: More

Before he moved to Cincinnati to work as a college administrator, wilderness lover Tallmadge would have dismissed the term urban nature as an oxymoron. But thanks to his passion for the writings of Thoreau, Muir, and Gary Snyder, and his practice of keen attentiveness to the world, Tallmadge began to perceive the complexity and vitality of natural life found within this wooded city. Not that this perception came easily. Tallmadge’s critique of the sterility of office life is exhilarating in its accuracy and candor, as are his dissections of out notions of time, work, and home. But as Tallmadge began to explore the surprisingly diverse green spaces within Cincinnati, ponder how “wild systems” sustain themselves in gardens and cities, and see the wonders of backyard nature through the inquiring eyes of his young daughter, he found his way to a more inclusive and sustaining understanding of wildness. This lustrous, continually deepening book, clearly the work of many years of observation and deep thought, is an insightful paean that reminds us that while it is thrilling to vacation in the wilderness, it is far more important to treasure everyday nature as manifest within ourselves and at our doorstep.

Donna Seaman, Booklist


The Cincinnati Arch will be an extremely important addition to America’s literature of nature. Tallmadge reinvigorates the genre’s central vision-quest motif in two ways. First, he integrates it with his life as a householder. The movement from ‘isolatoes’ to families is a necessary and wholesome one at a time when we are trying to connect the religion of nature more robustly to issues of social health. In addition, he follows his quest into the history and topography of a long-settled midwestern city. I predict that The Cincinnati Arch will be looked at as a literary landmark because of its merger between nature writing and urban America. The fact that it is gorgeously written and elegantly conceived shouldn't hurt, either.

John Elder, editor, American Nature Writing (Scribner’s, 1996); coeditor, The Norton Book of Nature Writing (Norton, 1990); author of Reading the Mountains of Home (Harvard University Press, 1998)


The literature of urban wildlands will grow richer and stronger with John Tallmadge’s remarkable The Cincinnati Arch. A book certain to become a classic at birth, it will join the small roster of enduring works that celebrate city nature. As Leonard Dubkin’s Enchanted Streets did for Chicago, John Kieran’s Nature in New York City for Manhattan and Brooklyn, and Richard Mabey’s Unofficial Countryside for London, Tallmadge’s book will make of Cincinnati a window on the wider world where people and other species live together. A writer of scintillating image and rock-solid intellect, he works the words as only a creature well adapted to the land of language can—but he also knows his wilds, and blends the two in a delectable broth. All urban naturalists, and all those who would love to love their cities more, will read The Cincinnati Arch with keen pleasure, and thank John Tallmadge for it.

Robert Michael Pyle, author of The Thunder Tree (Houghton Mifflin, 1993); Chasing Monarchs (Houghton Mifflin, 1999); The Audubon Field Guide to North American Butterflies (Houghton Mifflin, 1981); Recipient of the Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, 1987





The Cincinnati Arch . "All urban naturalists, and all those who would love to love their cities more, will read The Cincinnati Arch with keen pleasure, and thank John Tallmadge for it."


John Tallmadge’s descriptions are evocative and beautifully written, from the cathedral-like forests in the Sierra Nevada to his own backyard of the Cincinnati Arch. But he undertakes the next, more difficult step: a synthesis of the meaning of landscape to him as a skilled, sentient observer and teacher. The Cincinnati Arch grows from a beautiful idea carried out with good judgment and thoughtfulness; it will be an important book that needs to reach anyone who calls this landscape “home.”

Ann Zwinger, author of The Mysterious Lands (Dutton, 1989), Yosemite: Valley of Thunder (Harper-Collins, 1998), and Shaped by Wind and Water (Milkweed/ Credo, 2000); Recipient of the Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, 1976


Who better to open up the presence of nature in the city than a man who never expected to find such riches there? The surprise that John Tallmadge feels on discovering the pressure of wildness in the streets and yards and hills and creeks of Cincinnati becomes our surprise, as well. This is a conversion story, of sorts, for Tallmadge learns to see his urban surroundings as neither a wasteland nor a wonderland, but as a human settlement embraced and saturated by the green world. This is also a family story, for the author pays a new kind of attention to his place once he becomes the father of two daughters. Moving easily between the personal and the philosophical, writing with the assurance of one who has spent much time in the backwoods as well as the classroom, Tallmadge invites us to see our own neighborhoods afresh, wherever we happen to live. This is a book the world needs and one Tallmadge is well qualified to write.

Scott Russell Sanders, author of Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World (Beacon, 1993), Hunting for Hope (Beacon, 1998), and The Force of Spirit (Beacon, 2000)