Saturday, June 07, 2008

Two more for Annie's what's in a name

I've finished two more for Annie's wonderful What's in a Name Challenge.

The first was "The new world primates" by Martin Moynihan. It was published in 1976 and thus, was a bit out of date, but I had a hankering for more wisdom about the little new world monkeys, since I am an old world monkey. I almost read David Rains Wallace's "The monkey's bridge: mysteries of evolution in Central America" instead, and, now that it's over, I wish I had. Not that "The new world primates" is a bad book, it isn't. It is a broad overview that is simply so broad that one is left with an even stronger hankering for wisdom. I don't feel that I know much more about these guys than I did before. The other problem with the book is the antropocentric, Darwin-like attitude about "intelligence" and progress (i.e., smarter is better always). I just watched a video on you-tube about Stephen Jay Gould who hated the old-school idea of evolution as progress and I must agree with him on this one. Here's one example: " The smallness of most tree squirrels, whatever the cause, must have contributed to their continuing dullness" (p. 218). I've got several issues here... but I'll try to ignore the obvious body size issues of squirrels and keep to the fact that squirrels are NOT "dull". Squirrels are incredibly intelligent, if you measure intelligence by the ability to solve problems, reason, and learn. Of course, primates do have a great capacity for all of these, but I must object to anyone, especially a mammalogist, that considers tree squirrels dull. I'll leave this book with another quote from the author (p. 177). "Presumably wild individuals are seldom frustrated enough to go really queer". Enough said.

I have much kinder words for the other book I read for Annie's challenge, Brian Jacques' Mossflower. This was the third "tale from Redwall" that I have read and this one was wonderful, just like the others have been. It's another great good versus evil story, filled with amazing animals doing amazing things. The evil in this one is a truly evil cat, named Tsarmina. She is Macbethian in her ambitions and has her father killed to ascend to the throne of Kotir. She rules with an iron hand and takes food from the woodlanders as "tax" to fill the larders of Kotir castle. The woodlanders finally have enough of her crap and move away from the area to mount a revolt. Our hero, Martin the warrior, a mouse, is captured by Tsarmina, but escapes and leads the revolt. Overall, the book is extremely charming. The woodlanders have feasts with October ale and all sorts of wonderful sounding foods and pastries that make me want to go to Mossflower and join the revolution. I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who wants to read some fine fantasy. I am so glad that there are plenty of more books in this series!

No comments: