Pecked to Death by Ducks

Tim Cahill has made a reputation for himself as the author of educational and offbeat travelogues, including JAGUARS RIPPED MY FLESH (1987) and ROAD FEVER (1991). Cahill has divided PECKED TO DEATH BY DUCKS into five sections: “ The Unnatural World,” “Tooth and Claw,” “The Natural World,” “Other People’s Lives,” and “Risk.” Cahill gives the impression that he is willing to go anywhere and do just about anything for a good story. The articles for this collection were first published in different form in magazines as diverse as NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and ROLLING STONE. Whereas humor and excitement usually are melded together in his best pieces, Cahill’s first essay for PECKED TO DEATH BY DUCKS is a very sobering piece entitled “Kuwait Is Burning: A Postcard from the Apocalypse,” which describes the horrors of the oil fires that had been set by the retreating Iraqi soldiers at the end of the Gulf War.

Cahill shifts gears in the second essay, “The Throne of Terror.” The “throne” of the title refers to an outhouse in Guatemala that was mistakenly built over a cave, which happened to be inhabited by bats. This is a good example of the absurdities that Cahill seems compelled to search out and transform into priceless articles. There is also much excitement in PECKED TO DEATH BY DUCKS. Whether attempting to out drink Australians, exploring the world’s deepest cave on his stomach, kayaking in Baja California, or observing the cultivation of the giant clam on the island of Tonga, Cahill is never at a loss for turning a difficult situation into a writer’s coup. PECKED TO DEATH BY DUCKS may not include any ducks, but it does include vast amounts of wit, adventure, and wisdom.