Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Spider by John Crompton, a book review

I almost didn't read The Spider. I'm in a hurry to learn as much as possible as fast as possible and The Spider, written in 1950, struck me as too dated. However, David Quammen had the wisdom to include some selections from the text in his introduction, and that lured me into starting. Crompton's opening paragraph hooked me, and I devoured the rest of the book. I'm glad I did. I would hate to have missed Crompton's prose and his easy, good-natured approach to spiders and people alike.

Actually, I suspect he rates the intelligence of spiders at a slightly higher level than that of most of his fellow humans, but he does so so charmingly that one can't hold it against him, and anyway, it is only the faintest of suspicions. On the whole, he seems to regard everyone, spiders and humans alike, as a group of charming, eccentric neighbors.

I read bits of the book out loud to whoever happened to be around at the time, and I look forward to reading more of Crompton's books and reading bits of them out loud as well.

I can't read out loud to you (probably to your relief), but I will close by giving the opening paragraph to the Preface, the one that hooked me:

Coming out of the theatre one may expect to hear some member of the audience remark to the other that the play, though very good, was quite impossible; that such things could never happen in real life. It always seems to me that the lives of certain insects are more like plays than reality. And very good plays a lot of them are, particularly those staged by the bees, ants, and wasps. But of all the plays now running, I am inclined to think that the one produced by spiders is the best. It has almost everything the modern audience wants; love interest, suspense, psychology, battle, murder, and sudden death. But here again one comes away with the impression that it is all very far-fetched; that such things could not possibly happen in real life.

And if you can resist that opening, the you are heard to please indeed!

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