Book Review: The Field Guide to Bigfoot and The Romminghouse Madrigals

Goals, I hear, help give life direction and purpose. And while I have to tone down my own relentless goal-orientation at times to rediscover the joy of just being, I do find goal-setting to be a useful tool.

One goal that I’ve taken up for this year is a self-challenge to read 52 books. I’m being fairly liberal in my definition of “book”, including comic trade paperbacks, for example. I’m also being fairly liberal in my definition of “read in this year”, including books I began in 2011 but am finishing in 2012. All appropriate disclaimers now aside, you can track my progress on my Goodreads profile, and so far I’m doing pretty well. With these two that I’ve just finished, I’m at 5 out of 52! And now, for the reviews…

The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates (Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe, Anomalist Books, 2006, 205 pp.)

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, but after recently visiting the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine headed by the book’s author Loren Coleman, it became even more of a priority. I’m glad I got around to it, because it’s loads of fun. Originally written in 1999, and with two forwards now bringing it into the 2000s, the front section, in fine field guide fashion, aggregates worldwide reports of different kinds of mystery hominids to produce profiles (with track outlines and range maps) of nine “types” of possible undiscovered primate. This actually is very useful in that it clarifies how some dissimilar sightings that are lumped together as “Bigfoot” or “the Yeti” for example, may actually result from more than one species or variant. The bulk of the book then has two page descriptions of over 50 sightings, arranged by continent, one page being a full-page line drawing, and the other describing the details of the sighting, which subtype it corresponds to, and a general setting of related sightings, legends and fossil finds that resemble the case in question. The final section goes over the science of proving or disproving unknown primates, and makes some best guesses about which might soon be discovered. While one could certainly have a quibble or two (I, for example, would have liked range maps for the individual sightings, and was also left wondering why semi-legendary material about giants and mermaids was fair game, but equally widespread fairy lore was not) the book is fun and well-done. As with most books on the unexplained, it’s worth further research on what you read, as some things mentioned turn out to be less than meets the eye after further reading. The authors have generally been careful with their facts, though, and there are loads of things here that even an aficionado of cryptozoology like me had never heard of before.           

The Roominghouse Madrigals (Early Selected Poems 1946-1966) (Charles Bukowski, Black Sparrow Press, 1988, 256 pp.)

Speaking of goals for the year, one of mine is to finish putting together a collection of what I like to think is my best poetry from 2001-2010 and finding a publisher for it. As with many different kinds of writing and editing, one of the best things to do for inspiration is to read in the same genre, and I usually have a volume of poetry that I’m currently reading. Like this one that I just finished, which I LOVED. I’ve long been a fan of Bukowski, who is in the happy position of being an equally good poet, novelist and essayist. Interestingly, given the picture of him as a grizzled barfly, he’s like a classic 19th century man (or woman) of letters in that respect. And the fact that he focuses his powers on the gritty facts of urban life and the inner blight of wrestling with bitterness and failure makes it all the more glorious. This volume features his early poems, from before his success and wider fame of the late 60s/early 70s. Anybody who has ever spent time in the roominghouses of rough streets and/or their own soul will find things here that they recognize in their beauty, ugliness and honesty. And isn’t that what poetry, at it’s best, can do for us?    

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