Before the Swarm Livres audio Audible – Version intégrale
Intrepid naturalist Mark Moffett is tracking an ant species on a march toward bug-world domination. What a controversial theory of insect society may tell us about our own.
Mark Moffett doesn't just study ants, he travels among them. Moffet holds a Harvard Ph.D. in entomology and is an accomplished scientist, an award-winning author and journalist, and one of the best nature photographers of his generation. Years ago, this free-spirited naturalist left academia behind to plunge into the deepest jungles and observe insect societies up close. Now author Nicholas Griffin takes us inside Moffett's own world, to explore his death-cheating quest for discovery and his end-run around the scientific establishment. We'll follow Moffett into the rainforest as he chases a groundbreaking theory of ant superorganisms and supercolonies, one that may help us understand our own increasingly urbanized society. Along the way we'll meet a fascinating cast of battling army ants, farming leafcutter ants, and the insatiable Argentines: an ant species built to take over the world.
Nicholas Griffin is the author of four novels and one work of nonfiction. He lives in New York City. His next book comes out in 2013.
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It takes an insightful writer to capture this essence, Nicholas Griffin stays in the background and extracts the juice.
Officially Moffett is after evidence that "ants form superorganisms -colonies that effectively function as a single body." But in reality, "Ants are melodrama. You can take a box of dirt with a colony in it and stare for two weeks, until you know the ins and out of their society"
"The fact that ant society is generally dictated by hierarchy and specialization" comments Griffin, "makes it more attractive toa man who can't seem to stand either one"
Moffett, an iconoclast is a media star figure, enraging the Academia. The Universities , says Moffett, (including Harvard, who doesn't pay him a cent anymore) are "filled with nervous people". Yet he is a living proof of Charles Darwin saying that "general and popular Treatises are almost as important for the progress of science as original work".
Moffett has never taken a class in entomology. He had a lifetime problem with authority "I don't like exams. I don't like giving exams. I don't like meetings."
I recently wrote about the mathematics of miracles The story of that Mr. Griffin tells us is a history of miracles. Extraordinary miracles wake us up to the fact that all of life, down to the minute details, is one big miracle.
As a Literary Journalism major at the University of California, Irvine I've read and critiqued a lot of articles, books, and short pieces through the past four years. As you know, it is generally pretty easy to critique another persons work, and point out their flaws and where they could have improved. In my classes I've had a lot of experience where almost unanimously students find flaws in pieces by some of the most prestigious journalists, even on award winning pieces.
That being said, when our teacher gave us seven links to various kindle singles to read, and assigned us to pick one to download, I knew without even downloading your piece that I would like it. It wasn't the subject matter that sold me (I know nothing of ants), nor was it your subject (this was the first I've heard of him), what sold me was the short bio of you on amazon.com. Specifically the line: "Nicholas Griffin is the author of four novels and one work of nonfiction". When I read that you have previously written four novels and one nonfiction, I had a feeling that you could potentially be a master of the art of narrative nonfiction, combining fiction writing techniques with nonfiction content. Seeing that you have written novels before persuaded me to read your piece, since I knew that a piece as full and dense with research would not be boring, since you have previously mastered the effect of writing with a storyline, and would know of all the novelistic techniques used while writing a nonfiction piece.
After I read your piece, I found that I was indeed right, and through your exuberance and passion for the story I was able to find a previously unexciting topic extremely interesting.
In other pieces I've read, I have found that a lot of times journalists have a hard time balancing a narrative and a story with facts and research. It is hard for me to read pieces that have a paragraph of narrative, followed by five paragraphs of facts and research. I think that finding a balance is extremely important, and is something that you probably took into consideration while writing about ants and Mark Moffett. I think you paint a really good picture of Moffett in the piece, and show the readers his quirky character, as well as giving background to his subject of study, using the ants to build on his character and give insight to both him, and society as a whole.
I also really like the fact that you posted this piece as a kindle single. Long form journalism is being forced to move out of tradition forms that we have known for many years, and I think sites like Kindle and Byliner and Atavist really are the future for Literary Journalists such as ourselves. I think Kindle can improves their singles by adding a better description of the piece before the reader buys it, because that's what has stopped me from reading other pieces, solely because I haven't had enough information, and I don't want to waste a dollar on a piece that is different from what I thought it was. Luckily, your piece had a pretty good overview, which is another reason why I picked it, but I think it could be very beneficial for both your and Amazon's sales if a description by the author is added to the site, as well as the short "product description".
I must say that I do not regret my mistake. The story is fascinating and interestingly told by Nicholas Griffin writer living in New York..
And what made me glad, there are many links to books and articles containing more detailed knowledge about such topics as organization of different ant colonies, their mutual relations and, last but not least, so called super colonies - ants organizations with planetary reach and
Moffetts most interesting discovery (or rather should I say -hypotese?).
So if you are interested to know more about what happens in the grass plain under our feets, read it.
My second surprise was learning that there are ants on this planet capable of such destruction and complexity as those that Moffett follows in the Honduras. This element of shock really brought a new dynamic that was really critical for the piece and was probably the only reason I was continuously interested. I always knew ants were colonizers, but I had no idea to what extent: I was absolutely fascinated by the civilizations that Griffin so eloquently describes, forgetting multiple times that we were still talking about ants. With that being said, however, I think that Griffin could have written this piece for a less science-educated crowd. I know absolutely nothing about ants, or biology for that matter, and there were some parts of the story that I had to re-read to understand what was being said. However, maybe his target audience is more educated on this topic than I, so this is a difficult criticism to make. All things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed the piece and definitely felt like my horizons have been broadened. If anything, I can break the ice and talk to a stranger about "those crazy ants in Honduras" or something along those lines.
On a broader scale, by selling these short "Kindle Singles" for around $1.99, Amazon has created a completely new method of trying and buying long-form journalism. These pieces can be downloaded instantly and kept in a digital library to read between classes or on a lunch break. Unlike traditional publications, digital media is not subject to any length restrictions: books are expensive and therefore need to be a certain number of pages to justify being published; and magazines articles seem to get shorter and shorter. This leaves not only a niche for longer-length journalism, but also a cheap, digital platform, ideal for profiting from it. In addition, selling these Singles for low prices, and not in a bundle, allows the reader to hand-select their stories.
However, Amazon has definitely left some room for improvement. From what I've seen, the Singles being offered are a little too "weird" for most consumers to want to download and read. I don't think a story about ants or a piece about a ticket scalper is going to appeal to the masses, especially not the average newspaper or magazine reader (which is who Amazon needs to be targeting). Yes, these are definitely attention-grabbers, but in the long run I think people would rather pay money for stories that are relatable to their lives then a shocking read. In addition, in a world where most media can be downloaded for free (I guess we don't care that it's illegal anymore), the current generation has an attitude that media shouldn't be something that has to be paid for, or at least paid very much for. I think a subscription plan (a certain number of dollars per month) sounds better than $1.99 per piece, and could definitely be something to considered in order for the reader to feel like they're getting the most bang for their buck.
The first thing Griffin did right was choosing an interesting subject. Mark Moffett's life is interesting enough to propel the entire story forward with his daring adventures and his non-traditional approach to science. Griffin, weaving personal observation with dialogue and data, employs immersion journalism while presenting a factual and informative account of ant society--and makes it interesting. His use of a narrative arc beginning with his first introduction to Moffett sporting a swollen hand where a "dead" botfly that had apparently burrowed itself inside, and ending with the same botfly (very much alive) squirming out during a science lecture, Griffin sums up the unconventional and risky life Moffett leads. The level of dedication Griffin has for his subject is evident, as he travels to Honduras with Moffett to observe ants in their habitat, but at times as the reader I was left wanting more details. Rather than emphasize the extremity of situations through details and reconstruction, Griffin relies on his statements to carry their own weight and shock factor, which is effective to an extent.
As a college student, sacrificing sleep for pleasure and entertainment is not a new concept. The introduction of web-based long-form journalism has a lot of potential for appealing to the geeky, literary students. We live in a society that is constantly in the search for media and information at faster and faster speeds, and get our info fixes in any ways that we can. If this is going to be a successful market, I'm suspecting that a diversity of articles ranging from a wide-selection of interests (science, crime, death, youth, relationships, foreign affairs, even ants) should be made available. I challenge the editors of Kindle Singles at Amazon to take risks with their pieces, provide opportunities for aspiring college student writers to submit pieces (maybe have a college section) and use a student-based community--maybe that is free for students--and rekindle interest in long-form narrative journalism in the younger generations.