Sunday, May 12, 2013


Now this was QUITE an extraordinary read, ladies.  It was written by Tracy Chevalier and published by Plume in 2010 -- ISBN 978-0452296725.  What is it about?  PISCATORIAL LOVE, of course, but in a rather unusual context -- the fish lovers are a pair of Victorian-era beachcombers who cannot drag themselves away from the seaside long enough to get married and have children as their human society expects them to.

What fish, you ask, are they combing the beach for?  THE EXTINCT ONES.  Yes, the ladies are fossil hunters, and their names should not be unfamiliar to those who have come a certain distance in their transformation from human to fish:  Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpott.  The author makes an attempt to bring them to life for us -- for they, too, are now on their way to becoming fossils, at least if you see them as dead humans and not as FULLY RECRUITED OPERATIVES WORKING TOWARDS THE FULFILLMENT OF OUR GLORIOUS CAUSE.


>> For all the fuss made about our extinct sisters, the author never really gives you a good, square look at them.  You see them as a Victorian unused to thinking about evolution might see them.  Is it a crocodile?  Is it a hoax?  Is the tail supposed to be straight or crooked?  Is that a fin or a flipper?  Is it the front end of one animal and the back end of a another cobbled together by mistake?  Do you really call this science?  Can it still be science if muddle-headed WOMEN are doing it?  Yet there they are in the background, glaring at the characters in the book and drawing them on as if against their will.  Lovely!

>> Most of the hubbub in this story is about a type of operative that was newly-discovered (by Shaved Monkeys) at the time this story was taking place in real life :  the Ichthyosaur, using human parlance.  But the Philpott character personally liked to focus on finfish, AND A SOUND INTEREST THAT IS.  And Mary Anning, in this book as in real life, made her living working at the family business, collecting, tidying up and selling curiosities found at the beach:  sea lilies, fossil bivalves, perhaps a Trilobite here and there.  Both of these ladies knew their fish and knew a sterling example when they saw one.

>> But what they NEVER REALIZED  was that while they were convincing the scientific community that their finds were real and worth investigating -- even if a woman found them -- THEY, TOO, were being convinced that the piscatorial life was the only one for them.  And who do you think was doing the convincing?  Not the Easter Bunny:


NOW THIS IS A TRULY SPECTACULAR FIND, LADIES.  The children's book under discussion today was written by April Pulley Sayre and BRILLIANTLY illustrated by Trip Park.  The ISBN is 978-1559719797.  It's just a FEW PAGES LONG, but OH, THE RICHES WITHIN.

What you'll see in here, ladies, is a sort of PISCATORIAL SMORGASBORD of fish displaying distinctly human behavior. and all of it is set against this litany of human names for fish.  I can hardly think of a friendlier introduction to the WHOLE IDEA that someday, the human reading the book may turn into a fish...AND THAT IT WILL BE A GOOD THING. 

I have only one quibble with my particular copy of this book.  The center 4 pages were missing when it arrived in the mail.  This deprived me of several of the illustrations and threw off the whole rhythm of the chant.  Never mind, I can buy a fresh copy using the Fish Conspiracy Petty Cash Box.

The person who sold me the damaged copy has already been KILLED.  And EATEN.