On the NPR Saturday morning show, host Scott Simon interviewed Laurence Gonzales about his new novel, "Lucy", about the trials (and tribulations) of a human-animal hybrid. In this case, a Bonobo chimpanzee.
What's that, you ask? Well, this should be interesting.
First, from Laurence's Amazon biography: "Laurence Gonzales has lectured before groups ranging from the Santa Fe Institute to Legg Mason Capital Management and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His books include "Deep Survival," "Everyday Survival," "One Zero Charlie," and "Lucy." He lives in Evanston, Illinois." Laurance has written a various forms of survival issue type books.
So, what's this about Bonobos?
Bonobo chimpanzees Kanzi and Panbanisha, were discussed in a previous NPR article, where they stated that these two Bonobos understand thousands of words. Once known as "Pigmy Chimps" (now recognized as a separate species) and also as the, "Hippie Chimps" ("Make Love not war") because they settle social disputes with sex, and Chimps appear to fight a lot more; these are the genetically closest primate to Humans.
The book, "Lucy", from all accounts, is a clever, intelligently written novel. But strangely, there is no mention of any fiction precursors to this work. The Kirkus (starred review) says of it: “Masterful… Thoroughly well-written, grounded in science and a sorrowful sense of human nature, this book is utterly memorable.” Entertainment Weekly compares him to the late, great, Michael Critchton.
Laurance's website is:
But before, "Lucy"....
The 1952 novel, "Skullduggery" (Les Animaux dénaturés) by French author, Vercors (Jean Marcel Bruller, using a pseudonym going back to his Resistance work during WWII). But there was also a movie released in 1970 with the same title, directed by well known director, Gordon Douglas.
Strangely enough, Douglas directed a movie I recorded on Tivo just this past week called, "Bombers B-52". I used to work on B-52's so I thought I'd check it out.
Douglas, also directed a lot of famous movies, starting with "Lucky Beginners" in 1935, to his last, "Viva Knieval" in 1977. In between, he directed moves with James Cagney, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Steve McQueen, and it goes on. I just found it interesting that he should have chosen to do this particular film at the time he did it. Why?
Starring in the movie were Burt Reynolds, when he was still pretty cool and before the "Smokey and the Bandit" franchise started up. Also, a couple of "Star Trek" alums, Susan Clark (that same year she was also in the somewhat more famous film: "Colossus: The Forbin Project" and a later far more famous film: "Porky's") and Roger C. Carmel ("Harry Mudd"). Also in the movie, in the later court scenes, were Edward Fox, Rhys Williams and Wilfred Hyde-White. Although you felt this was a comedy, you also felt that it had a deadly serious moral issue to be dealt with.
Tagline for the film: "The Tropis...Was It Human?...Animal?...Or the Living Descendants of The Missing Link!"
Not to be mistaken for the 1983 movie of the same name and different storyline.
It is a questionable and heavy topic, but handled with such a light hand, it slipped by the notice of most of the public and the conservative (especially, the notorious Religious) Right.
A post on IMDB indicates that the film they saw at a Drive-in was at some point altered, that possibly they saw a screening copy. So, that's the original version of Skullduggery that I remember, too. I also saw it at a drive-in theater. I can only assume the first go around of the film, caused the follow up releases to be edited to "soften" the content, which had many references to race relations and some always delicious biting satire. If that is true, which I have no doubt, its pretty sad. I would like to see the original again.
This editing out (or "dumbing down") behavior is not unlike Brian Eno and David Byrne, having deleted track one, on side two, on their great and seminal, "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" album. They eliminated a beautiful rendition of someone singing a part of the Quar'an (Koran), merely because a single Islamic entity in London, complained the year it was released.
[And a kind thank you to those who pointed out that it was David Byrne and not Robert Fripp along with Brian Eno who did this album. This was just a stupid mistake on my part and no, has nothing to do with "dumbing down" (as that metaphor doesn't quite fit, does it?), as anyone can make a mistake; however, even after the fact, it was stated that they "hadn't wanted to offend anyone" and so, they chose to do something ignorant.]
A brief aside, for Fans of this seminal album:
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts remastered site.
From the site:
"This is the first time complete and total access to original tracks with remix and sampling possibilities have been officially offered on line. In keeping with the spirit of the original album, Brian and David are offering for download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through signing up to the user license, and in line with Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs that incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate."
And now back to our original program....
Its a fine line, between caving in to commercialism, bowing to show reasonable respect and fighting for free speech, thus increasing World knowledge. But they said that back then they simply weren't interested in offending anyone. Interesting how Islam has scared people leave them along and unchallenged for so long while remaining so insidiously untouched compared to other world religions.
Perhaps if more had stood up to these kinds of complaints sooner, or better exposed their beliefs to the world, perhaps leading to more transparency and better eduction of their own, perhaps some of the more recent events could have been avoided. I would have argued to Fripp and Eno, anyway, "Have some balls."
Getting back to author Laurence Gonzales, I find it hard to believe that this author ("Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why"), could not know of this previous book or the movie. Laurence has also covered survival stories for National Geographic Explorer, Outside and Men's Journal.
Regardless, I find the subject intriguing and worth mention, and thus, here we are. If you didn't know about the Bonobos, they are worth paying attention to.
As to the other two Bonobos mentioned earlier, Kanzi's favorite movies when he was very young are reported to have been, "Ice Man" and "Planet of the Apes". Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, head scientist at the Great Ape Trust near Des Moines has said: "I guess his favorite movie of all time is Quest for Fire."
I would submit, if they showed Kanzi, "Skullduggery", it very well might take over as an all time favorite. And for a really damn good reason. After all, if there's one thing the movie and both books make clear here, survival is at stake.