Yarn-chopper is a 19th century nickname bestowed on a journalist who concocts or sensationalize his stories. He is also called a Yarn-Slinger as he is extremely verbose in telling a tale. I think I would give this apt title to Gerald Durrell after reading his roll-on-the-floor-wet-my-pants funny book – My Family and Other Animals.
Title: My Family and Other Animals
Author: Gerald Durrell
Genre: Autobiography / Humour
Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) was born in India and spent some of his early growing up years on the Greek island of Corfu. He spent much of his time working as a Park keeper and followed his love for animals and flora-fauna with avid passion. This led him to set up the Jersey zoological park and later a Jersey Wildlife preservation Trust. This book is part one of his 3 part series on life on Corfu.
The Durrell family consisting of Mother, older son Lawrence (Larry), second son Leslie who is gun mad, Daughter Margo who is perpetually on a diet and then Gerald (Gerry) are fed up of the cold damp England weather. In a fit of inspiration or perhaps desperation, they decide to sell off everything and relocate lock, stock and barrel to warm sunny Corfu in Greece. It’s another matter that they have no place to go there nor do they know of anyone there.
They land amid humongous chaos (such is life in Corfu) with baggage, contraptions and even animals in tow. The Durrell family finds a saviour in Spiro who attached himself to their reluctant selves with much passion. He is over enthusiastic in helping them find a house and what ensues is a hilarious saga of house hunting. Finally after many un-promising venues, they all unanimously fall in love with a villa where they promptly set up house.
Life settles down as they are all lulled into tranquility by the peace and magic of the island. Mother spends her time cooking exotic sounding dishes while diet-obsessed Margo spends her days lazing languidly or locked up in the bathroom. Their days were divided between the sumptious meals and lazing in the garden.
“Tea would arrive, the cakes squatting on cushions of cream, toast in a melting shawl of butter, cups agleam and a faint wisp of steam rising from the teapot shawl.”― Gerald Durrell,
The tale is told from the perspective of 10-year-old Gerry and until the time he turns 15; though an autobiography, he has embroidered some of the facts and sequences of events. Nevertheless his rendition of how his family handles living in Corfu is rib tickling funny. The reason for this is Gerry’s unbridled passion for nature whereupon he insists on dragging specimens home. Never mind the horror, revulsion and annoyance of his family over them.
No points for guessing, hilarity ensues when the family members are confronted with such creatures who have been “adopted” by Gerry for research/pet keeping purposes.
Imagine if you please, it’s a hot summer day and you proceed to take off your clothes to lounge in the cool waters of the bath tub. Only to leap out in horror as your realise you are sharing them with a pair of water snakes. The poor souls had been “rescued” by Gerry from heat stroke.
Another incident involves a box of matchstick which Larry uses to light his pipe. Imagine his plight as a scorpion crawls out of the box with a colony of children hanging onto its back.
“’All we need is a book,’ roared Leslie; ‘don’t panic, hit ’em with a book.”
― Gerald Durrell,
Then there was the cockatoo called Quasimodo (you have to read more to realise how Gerry names his pets) who strutted around with great pride and took pleasure in terrorising the dogs. However he lost his edge the day he “laid” an egg! He never recovered from the indignity and there upon turned into a recluse.
“Well,” said Larry with dignity, “it may give you pleasure to be woken at half-past three in the morning by a pigeon who seems intent on pushing his rectum into your eye…” ― Gerald Durrell,
Dodo is a Spitz female dog that attached onto mother; she is so named as her brain powers are extremely limited. One day the whole house is turned upside down as she comes into heat and almost every dog on the island follows her home in an attempt to woo her; oh the chase-the-dog that follows around the house is hilarious and will have you peeing in your pants for sure.
Then there were the Magen-pies (magpies) that charm Gerry into keeping them as pets and before long “shiny” objects take to disappearing from the house. Leslie is the one most afflicted by them and he takes a shot at them with his rifle. They return to his study when he is not home, upturn bottles of ink and then take great pleasure in tramping through them to form multi coloured foot prints all over his papers.
“The Magenpies, obviously suspecting Larry of being a dope smuggler, had fought valiantly with the tin of bicarbonate of soda, and had scattered its contents along a line of books, so that they looked like a snow-covered mountain range.” ― Gerald Durrell,
While Gerry’s “guests” are of the beastly kinds; his siblings invite an eclectic group of people to the island for a stay with hilarious results. So you have literary and poetry geniuses with sensitive constitutions who come for a rest; only to be terrorized by Gerry’s animal love. Then there are the local inhabitants that Gerry befriends without any qualms about stranger-danger and even gets them home. His family is thoroughly convinced they will be murdered in bed one day.
“Overflowing with the milk of human kindness, the family had invited everyone they could think of, including people they cordially disliked.”
― Gerald Durrell,
Lasting impression on me:
I died laughing reading this book – I swear I am not kidding. I almost wore a diaper as I was forever wetting my pants, till I finished reading this. Its F.U.N.N.Y. !!!!!!
The autobiographical sketch presented from the point of view of 10 to 15 years old Gerry is full of childish innocence and nary of any malice. He puts forth his honest opinion of how he views his family and their respective reactions to his transgressions.
So while he views the adult world with perplexity; the animal world is his friend and he has no hesitation in putting his arm down a hole to see what lives there. He would befriend the tramp prancing around in an Olive grove and even take him home to let him have a bath.
It’s with childish innocence that he befriends the natives, self inviting himself into their homes and kitchen – all the while they look at him fondly for he is one of the ” crazy foreigners”.
“So I went instead and tasted Taki’s new white wine. Spiridion! what a wine…like the blood of a dragon and smooth as a fish…”
― Gerald Durrell,
The language is simple yet peppered with enough adjectives to give you a vocabulary lesson for free. While reading it I yearned to be this wild and free and living on an island became a dream to achieve for a while.
Oh come on – you know what it will be! 5***** and I would say I need to check your head if you havent read it yet. It’s a classic book that will be passed onto generations and makes for a wonderful read to children.
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Do you know of any author whom you would denote as a Yarn Chopper?
I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.
And finally we reach [Z] which will be the final post for this #AtoZchallenge for 2018
For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.
The A to Z Challenge is created by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by
Alex J. Cavanaugh of Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy Hawkins of Hollywood Nuts
John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing
J Lenni Dorner of Blog of J. Lenni Dorner
Some of my previous posts you might be interested in catching up on