"Animals are the source of some of our most imaginative and persistent fantasies, and these fantasies are the only way most of us ever get to escape from our urbanized and domesticated lives into a larger world," writes Richard Conniff in the introduction to Every Creeping Thing
. But Conniff, author of Spineless Wonders
, has some rather strange ideas of the kinds of animals we might want to daydream about. Take the little brown bat ... please: "When their mouths are open and their insect-gnashing teeth exposed, they look like the sort of particularly unpleasant lap dog that a Barbie doll would have in her spiteful and neglected old age."
Conniff lovingly describes the habits of grizzlies, mice, cormorants, weasels, sharks, porcupines, moles, snapping turtles, and other underappreciated critters, including the scientists and fanciers who pay attention to these animals. In deadpan prose, Conniff describes the decorative nature of bloodhound slobber ("It hangs down in ropes from the upper lips, or flews, and sometimes gets festooned between the lip and the end of either ear.") and the distinctive mating call of the porcupine ("It is like a baby whimpering from a dream that is bad and getting worse... "). Every Creeping Thing is a delightful, yet far too short, tour of our love-hate relationship with some "faintly repulsive wildlife." --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Conniff, a science journalist whose previous book (Spineless Wonders) took on invertebrates, offers another funny, informed examination of the natural world. The author is no softie. He trusts his "gut feeling that fear of nature is normal?more normal, certainly, than a love of it." But readers shouldn't be fooled by the slightly curmudgeonly posture: Conniff pays the kind of close attention to nature that only someone who loves it can. (The book's title, far from being an epithet, comes from Genesis.) Conniff presents a rogue's gallery of beasts that includes the sloth, the grizzly, the bat and the snapping turtle, among other oft-maligned and misunderstood creatures. His defense of the sloth is priceless: "masters of digestion, champions of sleep, gurus of the pendulous, loafing life." While cormorants are demonized by naturalists for dining on trout, Conniff defends their honor, averring they would much rather chow down on alewives and other unwanted fishy predators than on grade-A fingerlings. The text offers a procession of odd facts: the mole can tunnel 60 feet or more in a day; sandtiger sharks eat their weaker siblings in the mother's womb. Coniff's 17 wonderful essays on some of the animal kingdom's "weird, unsuspected minutiae" make, in addition to great entertainment, a strong argument for the importance of biodiversity. Illustrations by Sally J. Bensusen.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.