This 1957 book is about David Attenborough’s quest to find a Komodo Dragon way back in the day when these things were really mysterious and no one had one in captivity yet. This is exactly the type of book I love. It is about someone I really like (Attenborough, the narrator of my version of Planet earth) doing something back in the day, describing a world that no longer exists. He set the stage for the first western capture of a live Komodo Dragon, a creature that I grew up knowing about and thinking of as a mix of a toothless alligator and a tortoise. But in Attenborough’s words, the dragon is mysterious and dangerous, living in a world of myths and half-truths, not much more real to the western world than the Lockness Monster.
There was one major problem. Young Attenborough is a colonialist jack ass. The 1950’s Attenborough looks down on his colored contemporaries, belittling them in trite and condescending pity. As he travels the world searching for his dragon, he sees himself as somehow doing the Indonesians a favor, and chuckles at their silly ways. How do I then view this book? I can see this as a book of its age, that even though we would now see Attenborough’s language as racist, he was actually progressive for his time. But Attenborough is still alive, and the current, much older Attenborough is the reader of the audio book. How does he respond to his younger self? Well, after listening to the introduction where he talks about his younger self, he totally ignores it. Say it isn’t so. I might have to switch to the American version of planet earth and listen to Sigourney Weaver for now on.
Somehow I got the idea that since the book didn’t make sense to me, maybe watching the movie would help. Now I am disturbed and confused.
This is a book that came with such high endorsement that I somehow came to believe that this must be one of the greatest books to ever be written. So I started the way too large book and decided that even though it wasn’t making sense I would continue through it. After finishing it, my first thought was “I better look the book up in Wikipedia to see what this book was about”. Not because I didn’t understand it, but rather because I figured there must be something I missed. At the end of the book, the author had written a part explaining how and why he wrote the book, and what he hoped to accomplish. This didn’t help. He did accomplish a lot with this book, if by accomplish you mean that he confused me with how ordinary and boring his book was. There was so many names that I somehow was supposed to know who they were even though they were all 14th century monks, and so much ancient theology that I would have been bored of it if I lived in the 14th century, let alone now. Maybe if I had lower expectations I wouldn’t be so hard on this book. But then I wouldn’t have read it.
This little book built and built toward a major resolution: will this story be redemptive or is John Steinbeck a malicious heart-stabber? Should this really have been a question? Every page pushed me one direction or the other: are things going to work out for the poor native family, oppressed by the rich white tyrants? Or is God a cruel mistress? Lets just say I am glad Mr. Steinbeck wasn’t my Sunday school teacher.
1. Is this movie well directed and beautifully crafted? Yes
2. Is Jake G. smokenly sultry in his apathetic craziness? Yes
3. Do any of these make up for my dislike of any more war movies: Maybe
4. Do I get tired of movies that lack women in any serious roles: Every day
5. Will I encourage anyone I know to join the Marines? Maybe, it depends on how I feel about the person
This is a book about the science of sex. Mary Roach is funny. Talking about Sex in an irreverent is funny. Combining the two? Good enough. Could it have been better? Sure. Will I read her other books? When I don’t have better books to read.
When I think of the most obsessive compulsive of all school subjects (grammar) and add the type of people who care about the most obsessive compulsive of all school subjects, I don’t really get excited. It reminds me of all the T.A.’s who ignored all my hard work about what my papers were really about and grade me completely on a few misplaced commas. But it turns out this book is completely delightful, especially in its admitted obsessive-ness. Maybe the author should tackle such other subjects the obsessives loves so much, like filing, cleaning bathrooms and counting all the tiles on the ceiling before you leave the house.