Allan W. Eckert Robert Murphy - Essay

Robert Murphy

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There has probably never been in all the world a species of bird more numerous than the passenger pigion, which moved about over the eastern half of the North American continent in the 19th century in flocks so enormous that they darkened the sun….

[How] did it happen that such a stupendous multitude was brought down?

The question is pretty well answered in this nature-novel by Allan Eckert ["The Silent Sky"]…. It is so well provided with details of the birds' existence, ingeniously invented incidents to point up man's extraordinary and wasteful brutality, and the birds' inability to adapt to it, that the melancholy story is made plain. One follows it with a sort of horrified fascination….

Mr. Eckert is not on firm ground when he endows the pigeons with a sense of smell and an ability to see in the dark. He is uncomfortably anthropomorphic on occasion, and his predators, who also have their place in the ecological scheme of things, are described as wicked and bloodthirsty villains. It is doubtful that his style will evoke many poetic comparisons, but the book will give the reader an insight into a bit of our history that he may not have known—or of which he possessed only a fragmentary knowledge.

Robert Murphy, "And Then There Was None," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 31, 1965, p. 54.