Saturday, March 03, 2007

Why So Many Books About Ivory-bills?

J. Maarten Troost, author of The sex lives of cannibals, offers the following tongue-in-cheek explanation as to why he wrote a humorous travel novel about his two years spent living on Tarawa, a remote atoll in Kiribati:
It is the nature of books such as these—the travel, adventure, humor, memoir kind of book—to offer some driving force, an irreproachable motivation, for undertaking the odd journey. One reads, I had long been fascinated by the Red-arsed Llama, presumed extinct since 1742, and I determined to find one; or . . . . And typically, the writer emerges a little wiser, a little kinder, more spiritual, with a greater appreciation for the interconnectivity of all things.
It seems that Troost might have some unique insight into the psychological motivations that drive people to write books about their encounters with animals that others can’t find, such as the recent spate of books on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (i.e., Jackson, Hoose, Gallagher, Harrison Luneau, Hill).

In my early teens, I eagerly devoured every page of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Abominable snowmen, and Bernard Huevelman’s On the track of unknown animals. If I were a teen today, I might be equally attracted to fantastical, hope-filled stories about a winged creature that once roamed our southern swamps, and today is often referred to reverentially (if incorrectly; see here and here) as the Lord God Bird.


Blogger cyberthrush said...

I think it's more of a 2-way street than you acknowledge here -- of course there are 'psychological motivations' for publishing such work (there are psy. motivations for any sort of writing/communicating -- including blogs ;-), but there is also an audience of inquiring minds thirsty for such info, ranging from teenage J. Trapps to serious academic scientists; such stories are afterall big news, and without an attentive audience the writings would dry up.

March 03, 2007 12:10 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

There is indeed a large and attentive audience for these types of books, and the IBWO books to date have generally been exceptionally well-written (award-winning even) and entertaining.

March 03, 2007 7:19 PM  

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