04 March 2009

Who's an adorable little hemophage?

One last bit of vacation wrap-up:

I read Bill Schutt's Dark Banquet mostly on my flights back from SF. I think as a fancy-pants literary type (or, as one co-worker accused another, a "book bigot"), I'm supposed to be down on popular-science texts...Mary Roach's Stiff and Bonk, Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point and Blink, and a hundred knock-offs with spare white covers and brief titles...but you know what? I am large. I contain multitudes. And I loved reading about vampire bats, mites, chiggers, and the like with Schutt's gentle, wondering slant. One chapter begins with a hilarious retelling of a famous scene from The African Queen from the leeches' point of view. His musings on blood itself--how of course critters evolved to eat it, since it's everywhere, but how it's a hard way to make a living, since nothing wants its blood et; how human beings have of course always understood the connection between blood and life, but have bungled their interpretations to disastrous effect--the first transfusions of calves' blood to a violent, mentally ill man with the notion it would calm him down, the millenia-spanning practice of bleeding, where cyanosis was considered a good sign. Did you know George Washington was drained of eighty ounces of blood during his last day alive? Forty percent of total volume. Yeesh.

And man alive, how cute are vampire bats? Even if their wee lil metabolisms are so rapid they have to pee while they're eating lest they burst.

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