20 October 2006

My family and other animals

Pure delight - that's Gerald Durrel's My family and other animals. Durrel's description is exquisite. He paints very vivid pictures, and his sense of humour is unique. You never know when a laugh is creeping up on you, and then you cant stop. It's not the loud ha-ha, hee-hee kind. It's the kind that has you in knots, and you keep smiling to yourself. Of course, this was another kind of entertainment for my co-passengers in the Metro, but I said, laugh and let see.

Discovered Durrel pretty late in life, but he's marked now. Here's one of my favourite passages from My family...

"… The wedding night – or rather day – of a tortoise is not exactly inspiring…

…The incredibly heavy-handed and inexpert way the male [tortoise] would attempt to hoist himself on to the female’s shell, slipping and slithering, clawing desperately for a foothold on the shiny shields, overbalancing and almost overturning, was extremely painful to watch; the urge to go and assist the poor creature was almost overwhelming, and I had the greatest difficulty in restraining myself from interference.

Once a male was infinitely more bungling than usual, and fell down three times during the mounting, and generally behaved in such an imbecile manner I was beginning to wonder if he were going to take all summer about it… At last, more by luck than skill, he hoisted himself up… when the female obviously bored by the male’s inadequacy, moved a few steps towards a dandelion leaf. Her husband clawed wildly at her moving shell, but could get no foothold; he slipped off, teetered for a minute, and then rolled ignominiously over on to his back. This final blow seemed to be too much for him, because, instead of trying to right himself, he simple folded up in his shell and lay there mournfully. The female, meanwhile, ate the dandelion leaf."

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