Selected Works

Laura Ingalls Wilder, the politicization of her Little House Books, and her passion for wilderness.
On Joyce Carol Oates's preoccupation with violence and victimhood.
The 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre--one of the worst mass murders in American history--was carried out and then concealed by Mormons.
"With this book, Fraser does for rewilding what David Quammen did for island biogeography in his seminal "The Song of the Dodo." Fraser uses lucid prose, engaging stories and personal experience to make the ideas accessible and vital to a wide audience."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Eye-opening...The most powerful and persuasive attack on Christian Science to have been written in this century."--Martin Gardner, Los Angeles Times Book Review
A review of Joyce Carol Oates' Dear Husband, and Little Bird of Heaven
Review of Red Mandarin Dress, by Qiu Xiaolong

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"Peter Rabbit and the Tale of a Fierce, Bad Publisher" in The Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2013
My Horn Book review of actress Emma Thompson's limp attempt to tell the "further" adventures of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit and the "bunnysploitation" practiced by a publisher who should have learned something from Potter's timeless original. To read the full review, click on the image at left.

"Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Wolves"
Los Angeles Review of Books, 10 October 2012. Laura Ingalls Wilder, the politicization of her Little House Books, and her passion for wilderness.

THE LITTLE HOUSE BOOKS, eight novels published between 1932 and 1943, are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tribute to the great plains and her homesteading family. “I realized that I had seen and lived it all,” she wrote later, “all the successive phases of the frontier […] a whole period of American history.” Written during the depression, when the author was in her sixties and seventies, these autobiographical narratives of enduring wildfire, drought, locusts, tornadoes, and blizzards have sold tens of millions of copies.

Beloved though they may be, however, the books are in danger of being politicized, having already acquired a certain conservative aura. Much of it emanated from the 1970s-era television caricature, “Little House on the Prairie,” which leached the books of their rich specificity while displaying an often shirtless Michael Landon, chest shaved, addressing concerns never mentioned in the originals, including drug addiction, rape, and menopause. Ronald Reagan reportedly called it his favorite television show (Landon campaigned for him), watching it in the White House while he and his wife dined off TV trays. In a 2008 profile of the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the New York Times cited one of Sarah Palin’s sisters remembering that her sibling read “a lot” as a child. The only specific title she could recall was Little House on the Prairie. [More at the Los Angeles Review of Books--click on image.]

"For Wolves on the Brink, a Hobbled Recovery Plan"
Yale Environment 360, October 25, 2012
For a melodrama of persecuted fugitives to rival Les Misérables, look no farther than the Mexican wolf, the subspecies of gray wolf that once populated the U.S. Southwest. Hunted and trapped by ranchers and federal agencies since the late 1800s, now detained by the same agencies in pens called “wolf jail,” few species in North America have come closer to extinction. Fewer still have suffered through attempted recoveries so plagued by reversals and allegations of mismanagement. [Click on photo to read more.]

Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution
Metropolitan Books, 2009
Picador, 2010

The first definitive account of a visionary campaign to confront the biodiversity crisis: rewilding. Breathtaking in scope and ambition, rewilding aims to save species by restoring habitats, reviving migration corridors, and brokering peace between people and predators. Traveling with wildlife biologists and conservationists, Fraser reports on the vast projects that are turning Europe's former Iron Curtain into a greenbelt, creating transfrontier Peace Parks to renew elephant routes throughout Africa, and linking protected areas from the Yukon to Mexico and beyond.

A Reporter at Large: The Raid at Silver Spring
The New Yorker, April 19, 1993
Their names were Chester, Adidas, Sisyphus, Haydn, Montaigne, Domitian, Big Boy, Augustus, Titus, Nero, Charlie, Hard Times, Brooks, Billy, Paul, Allen, and Sarah. They were monkeys. Over a decade ago, an animal researcher performed an experiment on some of them, crippling their arms. The monkeys lived in one room in a cinder-block building in Silver Spring, Maryland--a building that the researcher called the Behavioral Biology Center. In October of 1981, he was charged with seventeen counts of animal cruelty and became the only researcher ever tried and convicted on that charge in this country. Twelve of the seventeen Silver Spring monkeys are now dead. But they are arguably the most famous experimental animals in the history of science.

The New Yorker, June 26, 1989
In fond memory of Jonathan Frid, a "Talk of the Town" story I wrote about the show in 1989. If you're a subscriber, click on the photo for The New Yorker's archives:

"A YOUNG woman we know writes:

During race riots and assassinations and the bombing of North Vietnam, my sister and I, not yet teen-agers, sat glued to the television set in the late afternoons. We were watching 'Dark Shadows,' and we were scared."

"Suffering Children and the Christian Science Church"
The Atlantic, April 1995

"Beloved in Thee I Am Well Pleased" is the epitaph on the gravestone of James Andrew Wantland. According to the Gospel of Saint Luke, God spoke these words to his son, Jesus, at Jesus' baptism. Given that James Andrew Wantland--Andrew, he was called--was twelve years old when he died, the choice of epitaph is striking. It does not express the sentiments one usually associates with the untimely death of a child. It suggests satisfaction, rather than regret or loss or sorrow. On the grave of a mature person it would presumably pay tribute to a life of accomplishment and fulfillment; on that of a child it seems almost too much to bear. But Andrew Wantland was the child of Christian Scientists, and the children of Christian Scientists have much to bear.

God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church
Metropolitan Books, 1999
A passionate expose of the dangers and delusions of religious zealotry, God’s Perfect Child is the first unvarnished account of one of America’s most controversial and least-understood religious movements.

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

A Los Angeles Times Books Review Best Book

"'A Strange, Bloody, Broken Beauty,'" The New York Review of Books, May 27, 2010
"What are Americans like today?" Over the past several decades, Joyce Carol Oates has built an impressive body of work exploring that question. Her answer is terrifying.

"So Fresh and Bloody," London Review of Books, December 18, 2008
On Qiu Xiaolong, whose Shanghai mystery series examines the tortured moral complexities of modern-day China.

"Heart of Darkness," The New York Review of Books, June 24, 2004
On recent fiction by Joyce Carol Oates, including:

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art
Rape: A Love Story
I'll Take You There
The Tattooed Girl
I Am No One You Know