Thursday, January 07, 2016

What is Marty Crump reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Marty Crump, author of Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg: The Lore and Mythology of Amphibians and Reptiles.

Her entry begins:
As a field biologist for nearly 50 years, I have studied ecology and behavior of frogs in Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. In another world, I must have lived in the Neotropics, for I am passionate about the region’s landscape, people, and fauna. I enjoy reading about the area, from W. H. Hudson’s novel Green Mansions to the travel/adventure tales by Wallace, Bates, Belt, and others.

I am currently halfway through Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon by John Hemming (2008). Hemming, one of the world’s experts on the Amazon and its indigenous peoples, has given us a profound gift: the definitive story of the history of the region. Hemming’s writing, reflecting great scholarship and stunning prose, is serving as an inspiration to me in my nature writing—his is a superb combination of authoritative and vivid.

The first paragraph of Tree of Rivers reads: “The ancient certainties, the relative tranquility and the isolation of the Amazon’s indigenous peoples were shattered forever in the year 1500. Strange craft appeared at the mouth of the great river and sailed up it for a few days.... This was an ominous portent of misery in store for the native peoples.” The last paragraph of the book, a description of the beauty of the Amazon Basin, reads: “... In tall, undisturbed forest I find the cathedral-like gloom protective and comforting. There are always surprises, in baroque tangles of creepers, powerful buttress roots, fallen trees like sarcophagi, stands of palms, patches of thick undergrowth, or mysterious and silent streams. You gaze up great tree-trunks to massive branches with sunlight glittering on the leaves of the canopy. On rivers, every hour of the day brings...[read on]
About Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg, from the publisher:
Frogs are worshipped for bringing nourishing rains, but blamed for devastating floods. Turtles are admired for their wisdom and longevity, but ridiculed for their sluggish and cowardly behavior. Snakes are respected for their ability to heal and restore life, but despised as symbols of evil. Lizards are revered as beneficent guardian spirits, but feared as the Devil himself.

In this ode to toads and snakes, newts and tuatara, crocodiles and tortoises, herpetologist and science writer Marty Crump explores folklore across the world and throughout time. From creation myths to trickster tales; from associations with fertility and rebirth to fire and rain; and from the use of herps in folk medicines and magic, as food, pets, and gods, to their roles in literature, visual art, music, and dance, Crump reveals both our love and hatred of amphibians and reptiles—and their perceived power. In a world where we keep home terrariums at the same time that we battle invasive cane toads, and where public attitudes often dictate that the cute and cuddly receive conservation priority over the slimy and venomous, she shows how our complex and conflicting perceptions threaten the conservation of these ecologically vital animals.

Sumptuously illustrated, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg is a beautiful and enthralling brew of natural history and folklore, sobering science and humor, that leaves us with one irrefutable lesson: love herps. Warts, scales, and all.
Learn more about Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg at the University of Chicago Press website.

Writers Read: Marty Crump.

--Marshal Zeringue