Introducing: Queen Elizabeth of Austria

Self finished In the Shadow of Man yesterday.  Oh, she was heartbroken over the loss of individual chimpanzees.  She found the demise of Mr. McGregor particularly harrowing.

Self still doesn’t know whether chimpanzees and people can really be friends, but points to Goodall:  she bravely admits at the end that she made mistakes in the course of her research, most of them in the beginning.  Perhaps carried away a bit by her awareness that no one had attempted to conduct a long-term study of chimpanzees in their natural environment, and desperate to initiate contact, she had lured the chimps with bananas, and induced them to come closer and ever closer to her. But the last half of the book more than made up for the first half.

She’s only a few pages into the 1,000-page behemoth that is Black Lamb Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West, but already she’s enthralled.  The King of Yugoslavia was assassinated in Marseille in October 1934.  West was in a “London nursing home,” recuperating from a minor operation, when she heard about the assassination.  West tells a nurse:  “Switch on a telephone! A most terrible thing has happened . . .  the King of Yugoslavia has been assassinated.”

“Oh, dear!” the nurse responded.  “Did you know him?”

“No,” I said.

“Then why,” asked the nurse, “did you think it’s so terrible?”

It turns out West, from the time she was a little girl, had always idolized Queen Elizabeth of Austria (“One of the most beautiful women who ever lived.”).  Here’s how West describes her in the Prologue:

How great she was!  In her early pictures she wears the same look of fiery sullenness we see in the young Napoleon: she knows that within her there is a spring of life and she is afraid that the world will not let it flow forth and do its fructifying work.  In her later pictures she wears a look that was never on the face of Napoleon.  The world had not let the spring flow forth and it had turned to bitterness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Third Tuesday of January (2014)

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The father of a good friend passed away.  Self scans her FB page and realizes that her friend’s mother passed away only about a year ago.  That’s harsh.

California is experiencing a drought.  A severe drought.

At least, it was warm out.  Self took pictures of birds at the feeder.

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Self is racing through the rest of In the Shadow of Man. Gaaah, the way Goodall writes about a poliomyelitis breakout in her community of chimpanzees is so heartbreaking and tragic!  Self never knew that illnesses could jump between apes and man.  But why not?  Didn’t the bird flu virus start with chickens?

Anyhoo, one of the chimps has an enormous growth in his neck that looks exactly like a goiter.  Interestingly enough, that region has many people afflicted with same.

In one brilliantly written chapter, we follow the excruciating death of a grand, old chimpanzee named Mr. McGregor.  This mighty and stolid creature was felled by the loss of function of both his legs.  He crawled back to the camp, and the scientists had to do a mercy killing.  Goodall sums up the last 10 days of Mr. McGregor! Gah!  Nightmarish.  They fed him breakfast first, and while he was jubilantly examining two hard-boiled eggs, they delivered him unto oblivion.  At least he died happy.

Self’s rate of reading picked up with Goodall’s book.  Let’s just hope she can keep this up, for the next book on her reading list is — as self has remarked on before — the 1,000-page Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West’s account of her tour of the Balkans.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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