This week saw the release of Brian Kimberling's excellent debut novel, Snapper, a delightful, wry story of a young ornithologist romping around the Indiana backcountry in a glitter-encrusted truck called the Gypsy Moth. There's no doubting Kimberling's own expertise in (or obsession with) birding after reading either the book or his recent column in the New York Times, in which he describes diehard birders as an "army of primitive hunter-mystics decked out in sturdy hiking boots and nylon rain gear." But Kimberling is only the latest in a long line of authors with burning, decidedly offbeat obsessions. Below, learn some things about D.H. Lawrence's proclivities you maybe didn't wanted to know, and if you're in New York City, swing by WORD next week to see me chat with Kimberling in the flesh.
D.H. Lawrence found it stimulating to climb mulberry trees in the nude. It is not clear why he found the mulberry more alluring than, say, the maple. Presumably during his extended stays in Mexico Lawrence climbed saguaro instead.
Chasing butterflies like Nabokov, raising peacocks like Flannery O'Connor, keeping bees like Ted Hughes—yawn. A real Bohemian needs a mongoose. Chekhov called his Svoloch and described it in a letter as "a mixture of rat and crocodile, tiger and monkey." He kept it for about a year and a half, but, citing a need to travel, he then donated it to the Moscow zoo, which he had fiercely criticized as an "animals' graveyard." The mongoose lived in captivity for two more years. The average lifespan of a captive mongoose today is about 20 years.