BOOKS: Timothy; Or Notes Of An Abject Reptile
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:
Timothy; Or Notes Of An Abject Reptile
by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Alfred A. Knopf (1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019), 2006.
178 pages, hardcover. $16.95.
This unusual little book is a philosophical look at the
foibles of the humans from the perspective of a wise and erudite
tortoise. Timothy the Tortoise looks up from his alien English
country garden, and wonders about the human race. Why, he asks
himself, are humans generally so useless? Why can they not do for
themselves naturally the same as all other creatures? To survive
they have to specialize and perform one particular trade to the
exclusion of all else in the universe. Why are they so profoundly
ignorant about the natural world, supposing always that animals are
incapable of reasoning and are merely guided by blind instinct, when
the evidence to the contrary is all around them if they will only
open their eyes and their minds?
Told in terse, truncated sentences, the book is based upon
the life of an actual tortoise who lived in 18th century English
naturalist and curate Gilbert White’s garden. The language used is
authentic 18th century English and the book therefore requires, and
provides, a lengthy glossary in order to aid interpretation.
Intellectually stimulating, the book is as fresh and
different as the whole idea of a myopic, well-intentioned naturalist
being studied by a rational reptile. –Chris Mercer