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Brazzaville Beach

Brazzaville Beach - William Boyd Here's where I'll probably stop, page 244.

Finding this book was a marvelous and strange coincidence. It was one of two or three English books from a lonely, hodgepodge street seller at a quite remote metro stop in Sofia, Bulgaria. It's lucky and strange that I found this fictional reminder that alleged chimpanzee pacifity in [b:The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal|33297|The Naked Ape A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal|Desmond Morris|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1324595064s/33297.jpg|1374011] -- another Bulgarian treasure -- is badly misinformed.

It seems as if William Boyd would do very well to write nonfiction or science. Here on GR, I have added an excellent, concise quote from the book about losing track of time and its neurologic basis. Boyd's writing style might be described by the preface to a collection of ancient Celtic writings I've browsed. The professor who collected and translated those writings points out that, far from being the sort of magical realism attributed to Celts at a certain point in history, most of the writing is in fact coldly realistic.

The realism just gets tedious when Boyd spends pages describing the geometry of every tree and cliff in Africa. He appears to believe that the descriptions of chimps killing each other will add the necessary element of disbelief. But it is in fact the pointless intrigues by the main character's scientific colleagues and herself which beggar belief.

Oddly enough, the dispassionate indexing of details begins to feel soothing and indicative of mutual concern if it's used to describe subtleties during a family dinner. Here, Boyd pulls the almost impossible feat of making dull middle class life sound more interesting than even Anne Tyler writes it. I'm half expecting to finish the book anyway, just to read another becalming dinner scene.

What the book is probably attempting to do, with a combination of little and no subtlety, is contrast chimpanzee aggression with that of the researchers themselves. Perhaps the two threads will blend better toward the end. This book may have helped my thinking, in that I'm less inclined to believe that chimp habits are trainable, but that accepting we are little more than chimps certainly can't reduce aggression.