I’ve mentioned Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile by Verlyn Klinkenborg in a previous post as an aside to Wikipedia, but today on the commute I finished it up. For those not familiar with the book it draws its premise from 18th-century curate and amateur naturalist Gilbert White. White is most famous for his A Natural History of Selbourne which was has remained in print for over 200 years. During the course of his life , Gilbert inherits an exotic tortoise from his aunt. It is through this tortoise’s eyes that Klinkenborg chooses to view and comment on the human world, turning the mirror of Gilbert’s natualist reflections back upon the “great soft tottering beasts”.
Timothy is a keen observer of human and animal nature. He gives a detached and sometimes critical observation of his human captors (kindly, as many are), and his insights span everything from English country life and religion in the 18th century to the future of human and the fate of the planet. The uncomplicated but profound internal dialogue of a tortoise makes for wonderful reading. The language of the book is intricate and hearkens to the jargon and grammar of Gilbert’s era, but serves to slow a modern reader down and appreciate the pace of the tortoise. There’s an excellent glossary in the back, don’t be shy about referencing it.
In all, I was thoroughly pleased and may just add some of Klinkenborg’s other works to my reading list for the near future (Rural Life, Making Hay and The Last Fine Time), but I really should get started on the Fifty Classics project soon.