Malarial Memories

Reid sent this optimistic press release on a promising new one- dose treatment for malaria, which brought back vivid memories of my brush with an almost- lethal case of Zimbabwe falciparum in the nineties.

The writer remembers: “I have personally had malaria… and can say that it is a deeply painful and depleting experience that leaves you in ruins, unable to care for your family, and in a very poor health if you survive.” The first is indisputable, and the last possible– I eventually recovered (it took all summer) but who knows what cascades of trouble it might have unleashed down the line? Certainly I never was in as perfect health after as I was before– but I did also get old!

The article reminded me of this spooky uninhabited elephant hunter’s camp near Hwange, although I didn’t get my malaria there…

And this birder’s paradise in the hot lowlands on the muddy shores of Kariba, where elephants would charge the Rover between sightings of life list species. There, I did get it… though I didn’t know until I got back to New Mexico, where I almost died before anyone accepted that I knew what I was talking about, and that I did not “just” have some generic thing called “malaria” but a particular species, Plasmodium falciparum.

Lots more to say about the experience, and the enormous and endlessly fascinating subject of parasite evolution, if anyone is interested…

The Story of Photography

This fellow’s post is actually about faux finishes, but his description at the end of the way things used to be made me laugh:

“I have almost no pictures of my work from back then. I tell my children that you used to have to buy a reel of plastic film covered with metallic goo and keep it hermetically sealed in an expensive camera, and when you were done with 24 pictures or so, you’d take them out and drive to a store and leave them with a clerk and then go back a week later after they were done drizzling them with strange chemicals and printing them on shiny pieces of paper. They were all completely white or completely black, generally, when you finally got a look at them.

I tell them, but they figure I’m pulling their leg.”

Another dumb quote

From a review in the New Yorker for 27 August: “Buying a car, Grescoe writes “is the beginning of a spiral through selfishness, road rage, and anomie, one whose ultimate goal is the mall or the gated community”.

Unless you, you know, live in the country.

Do our coastal elites even “get” Upstate New York? (Yes, I know Grescoe is Canadian).

What they might think of a town of less than a thousand, forty miles on one side and 26 on the other from the nearest small towns, and 100 from a city, is hard to imagine.

“Lost” Gruber review…

Before Q Blog, I had a website, which vanished. I regretted the loss of only one piece, an essay and review of a work by Michael Gruber.

Recently, reading him at his excellent website (link above) and commenting on him, I found a printed copy, which I will print here. Not only does it point you at an excellent writer with an enormous body of work in print; it documents one of the strangest literary conflicts I have ever known. There is more on his blog for the curious.

After you are done, go see his remarkable political taxonomy post “Political Terms”. Amidst pre- election hysteria, the old novelist and biologist has some sane observations…

Valley of Bones by Michael Gruber (thriller) *****
& Hoax by Robert Tanenbaum *

One is as good a literary suspense novel as exists, chilling, erudite, full of humanity. The other is a sad example of overreaching.

Until recently [Review written in 2007 I think], the “Tanenbaum” novels were written by his cousin (!) Michael Gruber. They were a series, set in Manhattan over nearly two decades, and featured assistant DA “Butch” Karp and his sometimes loose cannon Sicilian wife (I am not putting down Marlene, understand – if she were real and I not happily married she would be dangerous to my health) plus an enormous cast of family, lawyers, cops, criminals, and even dogs (Neopolitan mastiffs, who are sometimes given a sort of dialog, or rather monolog, on the lines of “My joy is to kill my enemies and rend their bones…”). Of particular interest and gradually becoming the character who best embodied Gruber’s ideas was Butch and Marlene’s language prodigy daughter Lucy, who also, quite seriously, communicates with St. Teresa of Avila (the old Spanish noblewoman smells of onions and is rather brusque). Lucy grows from a baby to a brilliant college student in the later part of the series, gradually tackling serious moral issues in a fascinatingly complex way.

The, apparently, Gruber asked for some shared credit and was denied. He went on to publish his first thriller under his own name, the utterly original Tropic of Night, set in Miami and dealing once again with police work and Catholicism but also with West African ritual magic, Santeria, and Siberian shamanism, not to mention ethnobotany, and featuring a Cuban-American protagonist, Detective Jimmy Paz. If anything it surpassed the Tanenbaum series. Interjection: former marine biologist and practicing – “I am practicing ‘til I get good at it – Catholic Gruber is someone who genuinely seems to have read all the books and experienced more than most. I constantly find myself saying, when he hits a subject I know a bit about like guns or dog training or how a religious order is founded or Siberia, “he’s exactly right – but how did he get it down so perfectly?”

His newest [He has written four novels since] continues the adventures of Paz as he investigates what seems at first to be an open- and- shut murder case in which the subject is an ex-prostitute who has visions. As the story unfolds it switches back and forth from her notebook “confessions” and the history of an order of nuns who administer to battlefields to the conflict in the Sudan. Could she be the Joan of Arc for the poor black tribes of the Sudan? Read and see – it is at LEAST as good as Tropic of Night – in Graham Greene country, but not as dour.

Meanwhile Tanenbaum, who owns the rights to the Karp family and company, decided to continue the franchise. Seldom in literature has hubris brought anyone so low. This is truly an awful book, one of the worst I have ever finished – I was at the end reading passages aloud to Libby in disbelief.

Where to begin? Tanenbaum can’t tell a story. He may know the law but he knows little else. And apparently, because the series is a moneymaker or because of his ego or both, he thinks he needs no editor. (He talks of a murder of COWS rather than “crows” for instance!) His cowboy (don’t ask) who rescues Lucy and Marilyn from a car falling into the Rio Grande gorge near Taos (don’t ask) is out of 1950’s – or 1930’s – westerns. His gang kids are cartoons. And his rendition of Lucy’s sexual awakening by the cowboy is possibly the most cringe-making piece of male writing on women I have recently encountered (as opposed, incidentally, to any of Gruber’s treatments of similar subjects).

As one reviewer said, it is best to mourn the Karp family, perished perhaps in 9-11. But anyone in the mood for something original should read Michael Gruber immediately.

Invincible Ignorance?

I hate to rant but (I can see everybody believes THAT)…

Well, first Reid provoked me with this, knowing that it was like poking a stick at a hot rattlesnake.

At first I just sputtered. “I can’t even debunk this– it is like Mary McCarthy’s famous remark on Lilian Hellman: “Every word she says is a lie including AND and THE.”

Except of course it is not a “lie”– it is merely smug, invincible ignorance, with libel of all hunters or even non New- Yorkers thrown in for snark. Would the “Paper of Record” accept an op- ed on any other subject featuring as basic an example of incorrect terminology as using “bullet” for”shotgun cartridge”? That indulged in such basic illogic as comparing putting voluntary limits on a tool used in a sport with limiting the effectiveness of one primarily used in self- defense?

And of course the not very subtle dismissal of NYC cops shooting bystanders because EVERYBODY is a bad shot. You think someone who had been through a serious class like Gunsite would miss 30% or more of the time? Maybe one reason that NYC cops in particular are so bad is that they live in an anti- gun culture, though studies show that cops who are not gun nuts are almost always bad. She should be forced to read the Armed Citizen page in the publications of the “mindless” NRA.

I do read anti- gun propaganda, and one of its most striking features is that it is virtually always factually and technically incorrect– even those who say they know guns make mistakes. And they never, never read our side enough to even refute our facts. They already know we are mindless, paranoid, frightened, even racist, and probably don’t believe in evolution… even if we are scholars, or women or Hispanic…

And then I began thinking about history, and subtleties even our allies don’t mention, perhaps because nobody reads outside the lines anymore. The roots of the three- shell limit are historically interesting and have little to do with anything but a bunch of rich sportsmen, who thought repeaters ungentlemanly, trying to put the brakes on market hunting in a time of little enforcement– they also banned gauges larger than ten, an arbitrary and unnecessary move never done in, for instance, England. Both bans could be repealed today with no bad effect. They have no effect on conservation– driven shoots in Europe make bags of 1000 plus with archaic side- by- sides like mine.

The anti- repeater bias might well have started with the excitable conservation pioneer and bigot William Hornaday, who like the artist Frederick Remington believed the US should be a “pure” Anglo- Saxon nation. In one of his books on wildlife he had photos of a Browning autoloader. On the same page he complained that such were used by immigrant filth from the dregs of Europe’s society, and that Italians and other inferior “races” should not only be refused entry but deported with all their descendants. Imagine my reading this in the fifties after it was recommended to me by an old WASP librarian.

He wanted all Italians, “southern and eastern Europeans”, Slavs, Jews, Asians, and “negroes” deported; better at least than the unspeakable Remington, who wanted them exterminated and offered to help in one of his letters. Remington: “You can’t glorify a Jew! Nasty humans! I’ve got some Winchesters and when the massacring begins, I can get my share of ’em and what’s more I will. Jews, Injuns, Chinamen, Italians, Huns – the rubbish of the Earth, I hate.” I don’t put political standards to art, but if I owned a Remington and read that, I’d sell it so fast it would bounce on the way out– and maybe use the money to buy a Charlie Russell…

Compare to two other establishment figures, both hunters and infinitely more appealing than Hornaday, never mind Remington: Teddy Roosevelt and his generous acceptance of anyone who embraced our culture, and Aldo Leopold (who married a NM “Mexican”).

I added, in my note to Reid: “I assume you are acquainted with the utterly racist origins of handgun control? Think “Jim Crow Laws” or read Condoleeza Rice on her childhood in the segregated south, or the pro- gun liberal Don Kates. Hint: white people had no trouble getting guns, just like rich people in New York today.”

Maybe sometime I’ll talk about “Progressivism” and eugenics. Know your history!