In these forty brief essays, the perennially perturbed Will Cuppy turns his unflinching attention on those members of the animal kingdom whose habits are disagreeable, whose appearances are repellent, and whose continued existence is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. He is not - decidedly not - without reason. (The pike is pretty nasty as
fish go, don't you agree?)
And while Cuppy may frequently leave in his wake more questions than answers, we surely owe him a debt of gratitude for at least asking. After all, someone has to consider the distinctions between Stoats and Ermines, or why the Age of Reptiles simply had to come to an end. And if his take on the Giant Ground Sloth is less than flattering, who are we to quibble?
And grateful we are, if only for the author's flawless observations: the carp's "falciform pharyngeal teeth;" a fish that sings through its "glenoid cavity;" M. Danois, who is "seventy-
two times as smart as the average Tunny." No other writer of our ken could pinpoint the coloring of the Common Viper as "gray, greenish, yellowish brown, reddish, or black."
Decorated with illustrations by the ever-delightful William Steig, this bestiary of fanciful, fretful, and ferocious creatures is sure to enlighten the naturalist in all of us, the one who never really understood why, exactly, so little is known of the Dodo s daily life, even if it s too late to ask about it now.
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A failed dramatist who lost his beloved Jones Island hideaway to the predations of Robert Moses, Will Cuppy (1884-1949) wrote extensively on his life as a hermit, the natural world, and just about anything else that proved the world was out to get him. His cremains ended up in a leaky shoebox, proving him right.
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