Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I know, I know...

I'm supposd to be writing about graduating and leaving MIT and "moving on" (at least about the Boston Marathon, for my mom's sake...), but right now all I feel like writing about is Robert Sullivan's Rats.

I'm going to keep this brief (as my stomach is grumbling and there's a piece of homemade zucchini bread in my bag that I can't eat until I leave the Boston Public Library and its free wireless access), but I'd like to start by saying that Robert Sullivan is my writing hero.

As you all already know if you are acquainted with me (or any of my recent writings), I'm preoccupied with all things gross, putrid, and disgusting. Even though Sullivan gives rats a fair evaluation in his book, the fact that rats are undeniably gross shines through on every page; this is why I loved it so much.

I'm going to go easy on quoting Sullivan (as I trust that you are all going to go out and read the book, and not just for its "excellent rat cover"), but I can't resist completely (even though, at points, I have to admit I got a bit tired of his Thoreau-emulating).

Sullivan notes that while there may not actually be one rat for every American (though there are plenty of rats everywhere...yes everywhere), there is at least one rat story for every American. I picked up this book on the suggestion of my Nature Writing professor, after I described some of the rats around MIT while brainstorming for my first essay. One of the rat-catchers Sullivan talks with remarks, "The general consensus...is that if you see one, then there are ten, and if you see them during the day, then you don't know what you've got." Yesterday at about 9 am in from of the Z Center I saw a good-sized rat scampering (because rats always scamper) about on top of a short rock wall.

My other favorite parts of the book include the historical descriptions of the plague outbreak in San Fransisco of 1900 (I'd be interested in hearing how many of you knew about this...I certainly didn't), which gave rise to the plague-carrying rodent populations in the American Southwest that I heard about while backpacking in Utah. I also enjoyed the sections about rat fighting. Apparently dogs were unleashed upon 100 rats at a time: "Jocko the Wonder Dog, a London-based rat fighting dog, was said to hold the world's record, having killing one hundred rats in five minutes and twenty-eight seconds."

Also, there a chapter called "Excellent." Excellent.

The Afterword (not the actual booky book) ends thusly:
"Now, go and have a drink or relax or something, because the book you just read that was all about rats is thankfully over."

I think I'm going to go do just that.

Then I'm going to ruminate on more gross things, and hope that gross-ness isn't going to become vogue. But if it does, that's ok too.

5 comments:

kt said...

Sounds good, I shall have to put it on my list! I happen to be reading a book called Condor by John Nielsen right now. It's about my favorite bird, the California condor, and it has quite a few gross moments as well (after all, the bird is a scavenger). Hope to see you at home soon!

Rebecca Wirfs-Brock said...

KT-
Did you know that the latest baby condor hatched at the Portland zoo died and was eaten by its parents...scavengers don't play partial to friends or family.

I'm reading an Italo Calvino book right now that is about a boy who decides to live in the trees in Itally in 1700s. Pretty amazing. But so far no rats...

kt said...

I did indeed read that! Those condors...it's always something interesting.

Jordan said...

You guys never fail to impress me. After almost two months of blog-less-ness, comments well within 24-hours!

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