Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf
Originally uploaded by barbfecteau.
According to Ms Nichelson at the Beverly Public Library none of you are choosing this book for summer reading and that is a crime!

The fact that it looks boring as can be is surely an understandable reason. A man, a Canadian no less, is sent to the arctic to study wolves in their natural habitat. Please excuse me while I just rest my head here and begin to snore... And the vocabulary is a little off putting. In the first three pages I was taken aback by sojourn, m├ętier, loutish, ensconced, eschewing, expedient, ensuing, hooferaw and nocturnal peregrinations. The irony is that many of these words are used to tell a hysterical story of a snobby grandmother, some small catfish and a midnight trip to the toilet gone terribly, terribly wrong.

So first I will focus on the boredom factor. There is none! The story starts funny and gets funnier. I am not what you would call an "outdoor girl". I camp, but never without electricity and running water. The idea that Farley would be dropped by a plane onto the middle of a frozen lake in the middle of the arctic with a vague cheery promise of "Come back for you in the fall..." by an extremely irresponsible pilot both fascinated and horrified me. There is not a lot of manly "I survived by my wits..." talk. He more runs along the lines of "I discovered that when the laboratory alcohol with which I had been supplied [to preserve tissue samples] was mixed sparingly with Moose Brand Beer a variety of wolf-juice resulted which was positively ambrosial." Which means, of course, yummy.

For scientific purposes he is obliged to live on a diet of mice. The fact that he chooses this tells a great deal about his character. Here is my favorite quote of the whole book. "Of the several recipes which I developed, the finest by far was Creamed Mouse, and in the event that any of my readers may be interested in personally exploiting this hitherto overlooked source of excellent animal protein, I give the recipe in full." What follows is the most repulsive recipe I have ever read. I almost vomited at the YMCA and the only thing that kept me from doing so was that I was laughing my head off at the same time and my nervous system must have shorted out. All I will say is this - one of the directions is "do not remove the heads". Ack!

Now the vocabulary - this book was written in 1963 and Farley Mowat is both a scientist and a Canadian which means he has a better vocabulary than anyone. However - you have to take the SATs eventually and this is a great way to learn new words. My advice is to just read along and ignore the words you don't understand. They are almost always adjectives - so you can figure out what they mean by the rest of the sentence. If it throws you off too much - then just read near a small dictionary.

Now as I mentioned before, I am not really a nature person. I love it in small doses, but I am completely aware that I am at its mercy - and so I fear it. Happy? I have admitted I am a big baby. Moving on... There are only two books I have enjoyed that deal with man alone in nature. The first is The Cay by Theodore Taylor about a boy and a man cast away on a deserted island, which you probably read in grade six. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is one of the funniest books ever written and concerns his walking the Appalachian Trail with a borderline insane childhood friend. Other nature books that people who like that sort of thing have recommend to me are Touching the Void and Into Thin Air they are supposed to be great, but I know that at least one of them doesn't end well.

If you do read this book, you will want to go up to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich and tell them that Farley Mowat sent you.

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