Monday, September 3, 2012

Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of An American Hunter, Book Review

Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter, by Steven Rinella. Spiegal & Grau: New York, 2012. 256 pages. Reviewed by Jenny Nguyen of Food for Hunters.

Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter is an intimate and contemplative account of a hunter's life gone full circle. Written from the point-of-view of an older, more experienced woodsman, author Steven Rinella dives into the details of his life to reveal his personal wrestling and resolutions as a life-long trapper, hunter and fisherman. The book makes an impressive attempt to explain why the act of hunting is still relevant and alive in our increasingly modern world today. Readers will appreciate Rinella's latest book for its honesty, its rawness and charming free spirit. Meat Eater hits booksheves tomorrow, September 4th, 2012.

Rinella is host of Sportsman Channel's Meat Eater.
Packed with exciting asides and digressions, Rinella's narrative is refreshingly sporadic yet powerfully persistent in its delivery. Sprinkled throughout the book are "Tasting Notes"on different animals, creative tips and tricks to cook game from squirrels, to venison, to even mountain lions. I enjoyed Rinella's accounts of Nha Trang, Vietnam, the faraway place where he learned to cook "camp meat" the right way, and the place where I was born. I could've sworn I've been to some of the places he described.

Gruesome (to some) yet romantic, Meat Eater has the touch of a novel. To take the physical, carnal act of killing an animal and turn it into a work of art takes the skill of not only a seasoned hunter, but also a seasoned writer. At times graphic and at other times beautiful, Rinella's quixotic attitude towards his hunts was never meant to soften the blow of an animal's death-- because all the bloody details are included, too. Instead, this vaccilation between the physical and the spiritual signifies the author's own struggles to reconcile the connection between food and death, a connection many Americans increasingly forget. As physical as hunting can be, Rinella argues that true hunters answer the call of something much higher, something much more visceral.

Feeding his son Jim wild game for the first time.
Meat Eater is a reminder, a backward retracing of human history and survival. What I appreciate most is that it's a tale of personal growth and spiritual fulfilliment. Openly admitting his past blunders and egos, Rinella celebrates hunting by showing that it's a life that's anything but static and superficial. For Rinella, the life of an American hunter is one of challenges, mistakes, change and newfound wisdoms. It's learning how to understand that connection between food, life and death-- and appreciating that connection-- that makes a hunter a hunter, and a human being a human being.

"Maybe stalking the woods is as vital to the human condition as playing music or putting words to paper. Maybe hunting has much of a claim on our civilized selves as anything else. After all, the earliest forms of representational art reflect hunters and prey. While the arts were making us spiritually viable, hunting did the heavy lifting of not only keeping us alive, but inspiring us."

As a woman who grew up in Southern California, Meat Eater welcomed me into a world I had not known. It was a world were rowdy Minnesota boys roamed rampant, where the tales of gruff American heroes and wild Indians came alive, and where the dreams of our young author turned into a lifelong, career-defining pursuit. However different Rinella's life may be from mine, Meat Eater is relevant to me simply because I, too, am a human being who eats meat to stay alive, as did many generations before me. Rinella's book is not a blantent, desperate cry for the hunting way of life. It does not appeal to anti-hunters or vegetarians. It is a narrative that exists on its own and for itself. As simple and concise as its title, the overarching message is, "I am a hunter. This is my story." You either take it or you leave it.

Purchase Meat Eater on Amazon.com or at your local book dealer. 

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