". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, March 8, 2013

For the Love of Animals & Books

A friend's question concerning a novel about a wolf published in 1914 reminded me of a question jigging in my mind this winter.

Why did novels featuring animals, that were published for the adult market, disappear?  In fact, are there still novels even for kids featuring an animal, that provides all kinds of natural history education, being published?

Albert Payson Terhune made an excellent living writing about collies, particularly Lad of Sunnybank,, the sequels and spin-offs from that book.  I think the stories originally ran in the high-paying magazines, like The Saturday Evening Post, that also published writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I read and re-read and re-read novels like Beautiful Joe, Black Beauty, National Velvet, the Lad books, the Bambi books, White Fang, Call of the Wild. I read many others animal centric books too, but those, like Walter Farley's Black Stallion books, were specifically targeted to a juvenile market.  But these others were not.  Then there was the huge Book Club hit, and later a movie, from Lassie Come Home. This one wasn't written as a kid's book either. Much later Watership Down arrived, which I confess I read as an adult and read once and recall nothing of.  It too was for an adult market, not the kids', if I recall the marketing correctly.

I'm speaking of fiction, not the books about animal companions that get published occasionally even now, such as , or books by observers like naturalists, such as the ones about otters (Ring of Bright Water) Gavin Maxwell, or the Elsa the lioness Born Free books. These still show up, occasionally.

Nor do I mean talking animals books like Wind in the Willows or the Redwall series. I mean books that center real animals.

This question arrived about the time I watched the film made from War Horse -- which was written as a children's book.

The final shots in War Horse were of Joey, re-united finally with his Albert, back on the farm, staring out of the yard, through the sunset, looking back to Europe and his adventures, presumably reflecting upon all those others who loved him, loved him at least as much as Albert does.

In her film, Lassie doesn't do this, if I'm recalling correctly.  She is blissfully cuddling her puppies as her boy Joe and the Rich Girl hang over her litter bed, presumably to make a litter themselves one of these days.  One after another, people fall in love with Lassie.  And though she is sympathetic, gives what she can to each one, she remains forever faithful to her boy, Joe.

I'm not so sure about War Horse, Joey the stallion.  I think he loved all his lovers in the ways they wished to be loved; Joey kept them in mind, as much as he kept in mind his boy and loved him., while adventuring. Despite the terrible things Joey went through, Joey's the perfect representation of "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."  Hey, he survived!

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