Craig Conley is a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure
. A voracious researcher, he possesses both the focus required to compile book-length arcana on a given topic and the objectiveness to consider sources other scholars might ignore
. It is precisely this tendency to "overlook" that forms the basis for Conley's Field Guide
. As he states in the book's introduction, "Because we live in a highly visual world, we rarely exercise the full range of our hearing. Yet our ears can detect things that our eyes automatically reject. By listening as opposed to looking, we can avoid overlooking. Practice can be richly rewarding, whether one is listening for unicorns in particular or neglected delights in general." And so Conley mines the known literature on unicorns, nobly eschewing distinctions between historical accounts, fantasy novels, and instances of metaphor,
organizing the brief excerpts and other tidbits found into 51 short lessons in the art of "deep listening" necessary to perceive the fabulous beasts. Soundwave diagrams impart insight into audible tendencies of the unicorn as rustling, laughter, mimicry of orchestral instruments, soft nickering, cries of ruin, and the creature's alarm "sneeze." More complex diagrams contribute to the mapping of the once well-maintained highways between magic and science
, illuminating such correspondences as the Fibonacci Spiral with the shape of the outer ear and the comparative curl of the unicorn's horn with that of the human cochlea. Conley also offers an companion compact disc with four tracks of listening exercises set in a sylvan soundscape. Narrator Michael Warwick guides the listener through the first half of the CD, then departs, leaving only the birdsong and delicate, layered crackle and murmur of the forest and whatever one might discover there. This book and recording are fine works of practical esoterica. Highly recommended.