Saturday, March 7, 2009

There’s Some Fish and Critters Worth Leaving Alone

Four years ago, when I was out of work and my brain was alive, I wanted to start sending comics stories to a magazine or something. They would be little pieces about weird interactions between animal business and human business. One was going to be about how Duke Ellington was obsessed with myna birds, for example. Then another was about the scary idea I found in David Quammen's Monster of God, from R. Ehrenfeld’s article “The Last Extinction”--that in roughly 100 years no majestic or unusual land animals will exist in the wild; that the only things around will be "weedy," hardy little animals like possums, squirrels, rats, and sparrows. This below is the only piece I finished writing, but I never drew pictures:
Here is Eugene Marais, who for three years at the turn of the last century lived in a troop of chacma baboons and killed himself before he finished writing the book about it. He was a journalist and lawyer and Afrikaner resistance poet and Boer War gun-runner too, but I think he’s mainly remembered for his ground-breaking work in ethology and evolutionary science, most of which was stolen from him by Maurice “Total Dirtball” Maeterlinck. He loved termites and baboons. And he injected morphine for like 40 years.
Marais left his Pretoria law practice in nineteen-oh-something and went out in the bush with a friend to study baboons. (This friend and his fate are mysterious. Marais: “An untimely death cut short his work.”) It was a darkly perfect moment for amateur babooning: all the Afrikaner farmers had been killed or imprisoned by the occupying British, and for a decade or so the chacmas enjoyed a rare rifle- and snare-free existence. The book Marais almost completed is called The Soul of the Ape. My favorite chapters are “Addiction and Depression”, and “Disturbances of the Sexual Sense.” You ought to read the book yourself.


  1. please post again, okay?

    also, where did "crying shoes" come from?

  2. Hi lil e! The name is from a Willie Nelson song: personified Memory brings nothing but bad news, then sets out Willie's crying shoes. My other favorite Willie idea is the bizarre conceit developed in the song "Opportunity to Cry." Sad!