I’m reading “His Monkey Wife” by John Collier. It’s extremely odd. I picked it up from the cheap used books table at Potlatch. Anyway, this was Collier’s first novel, from 1930. I’m on chapter 2 and besides being an uncomfortable festival of racist epithets… it’s fabulously weird. This schoolteacher’s pet chimp learns to read and falls in love… it’s a female chimpanzee’s coming of age novel.
I read only part of the book’s annoying introduction – by Paul Theroux – he did point out that some critics said the book was a “satire against the New Woman”. Then says “The book is so funny and bright it does not need critical explanation.” (A particularly stupid and arrogant thing to say in the middle of a critical explanation whose main point is to be hifalutin’ while telling the reader not to engage in any critical thinking.) “Sitwell’s thesis about its illustrating a kind of moral evolution is not very interesting, and mentions of Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Pankhurst and gibes at George Moore hardly create enough wind to fill the sails of a feminist argument.” (What?)
Well, given that I’ve been fascinated with sf’s explorations of human/animal boundaries as ways of describing alterity… this fits right in! I got to the bit where Emily compares herself to Virginia Woolf in her thoughts… or rather the omnisicent narrator mentions how Emily later read about Woolf being turned away from a university library. When Emily picks up a volume of George Moore…
“Woman!” she thought, thinking of herself and the negresses, who were the only human kind she had seen, “Woman! The meek hairy shadow, or the glossy black caricature of man! Surely they must be of this second strutting kind who can be imagined as thinking and acting thus!” And, shaking her head, the perhaps old-fashioned chimp had replaced the disturbing volume on the shelf.
I have no idea who the hell G. Moore is! But anyway, then even more perturbing thing happen, and the matriarch of the village comes by and falsely accuses the schoolteacher of rape. I have a feeling this book is going to be extremely annoying and yet I can’t put it down. It’s that weird!
Lately I’ve been staying up too late… and read Renegade, Sea of Trolls (which I recommend to Eliz. and Iz, by the way), Invitation to the Waltz, and Invitation’s sequel which I’ve forgotten the name and am too lazy to get up, but it was really good. Iris told me the parts about abortion were controversial when Lehmann published it and she was surprised because it wasn’t like it was a complete secret that people sneakily had abortions and that they were dangerous, etc. Well, tonight I’m going to be in bed with the light out by midnight! for sure! i swear!
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