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the story behind the book

Ian Frazier on country, city, and feral hogs

david wilson for the boston globe

In “Hogs Wild,” Ian Frazier gathers two dozen magazine stories, previously published in The New Yorker (where he is a staff writer), Outside, The Atlantic, and Mother Jones over the past 20 years. Most are set in the United States, in locales as varied as New York, N.Y., and Sisters, Ore. Many involve animals. Nearly all track a kind of obsession — even if that’s just the author’s own relentless curiosity.

“A lot of it is about the city and the country,” Frazier said, when describing what binds these pieces together. A native of small-town Ohio, Frazier added, “Where I came from was rural. It’s not rural now, but it was when I grew up. I think if you come from someplace where nature’s more a part of your life, you look for it when you move to the city. You look at nature. You look at water.”

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The story that gives the book its title investigates the invasive spread of feral hogs.

Though he reported in the South, Frazier said, “feral hogs are widely distributed.” In fact, he added, between the transport of feral hogs for hunting purposes and their own dogged survival and adaptation instincts, “feral hogs are on the march. There’s no question.”

Among the stories he most enjoyed reporting, Frazier said, was “a piece about shrapnel.” To clarify, the article is about “Henry Shrapnel, who invented shrapnel.”

Perhaps needless to say, Henry Shrapnel “hoped to be rewarded, but he never really was. He ended his life sad and bitter. If you invent shrapnel, nobody’s going to thank you.”

Like a lot of his work, Frazier said the shrapnel investigation began with just a thread of curiosity. “Curiosity is a kind of secular form of love. You’ll get a crush on a subject, and start just besieging it with your research.”

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Frazier will read 7 p.m. Monday at Harvard Book Store.


Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.