Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: A Bug Story

Review: The Supreme Bean, Review: Politics Shmolitics, Review: Blood Bites

A Bug Story: The True Story of a Man and his Love of Insects
Eight-legged Press
754 Pages
Reviewed by Sally Putterman

Warning. Reading A Bug Story is like being struck by a cataclysm: the earth shakes, your worldview changes, and nothing in your life will ever be the same.  It’s more startling than the first time you read the Bible, or Catch 22, or when that crate of Encyclopedias fell off a truck and landed on your grandmother.  It’s one of those books where, after you finish reading it, you turn back to the first page and start it again, and then when you finish reading it a second time... you go get something to eat... but after that, you read the book a third time, and you keep reading it over and over until one day you look up and find out three months have gone by and your husband has moved out and you no longer have a job and everyone thinks you're crazy.  So what do you do? It doesn’t matter because you still have the book, so you read it again and again and then after about the seventeenth reading, the narrative becomes so ingrained in your mind, you run out and join a cult espousing the views and virtues expressed within the book.  It’s sort of like Ayn Rand, but less self-centered, and with cockroaches.

The book examines the life of Ellington Sinclair, A former Professor Emeritus of Entomology at the Meechum Institute.  After a brief but brilliant career, he walked away from academia, lured to Hollywood during the animated insect craze of the early 2000s.  He served as a consultant on such films as Ants, Buggin’, A Bee Movie, Another Bee Movie, Here Come the Dung Beetles,  A Fly’s Fancy, A Caterpillar’s Conundrum, A Termite Problem, and Ants II: Electric Boogaloo.  To Sinclair’s ultimate disillusionment, the plots of these films grew increasingly unrealistic as directors accepted  fewer and fewer of his ideas.  “But an insect would never say that,” became one of Ellington's mantras.  As his influence dwindled, his desire to exert control over these films became ever more feverish.  He famously walked into the office of a major studio executive and demanded cash to direct a film about a colony of ants retrieving a bread crumb from underneath a refrigerator.  When, astonishingly, the executive approved the project, Sinclair insisted that all of the voice actors be played by actual insects.  When the executive suggested using traditional movie stars instead, Sinclair made him promise that the actors would learn a special insect language, consisting of clicks and buzzing sounds--throughout the entire movie!--with subtitles used to relay dialogue to the (one would assume) disbelieving audience.  Even after the deal fell through, Sinclair continued to hound Meryl Streep for six weeks to learn correct Beetelian syntax, which she did.

Such was the effect this man had on people.  It is no wonder then that after he left the movie business, he chose to utilize his abilities by helping people find the answers to life’s most difficult questions.  After a year of introversion and travel abroad,  he settled in Austin, Texas, where he became the charismatic leader of the First Church of Insectology.  There he ministered to a primarily youthful congregation while developing his theories and writing his famous treatise, On the Rights of Insects and his only slightly lesser work, Do Insects Feel Pain? (It turns out they do.)  He became a fierce advocate for insect rights: he started a website, issued pamphlets, and hosted a bi-weekly, sometimes heated but ultimately respectful debate with a group of exterminators.  All members of his congregation took a pledge to forego eating any living thing. (This was the most difficult part as fruits and vegetables are considered living things.)  Most importantly, the Professor developed the philosophy of Insectivism, whereby he established that: reality does not exist independently of insects, human beings can not escape direct contact with insects, and that the central moral purpose of life is the pursuit not of your own happiness, but of the happiness of insects. 

Reverend Professor Sinclair also set up an insect sanctuary in his basement.  There are currently three billion plus residents living in his house, a number that grows exponentially every few weeks.  It is in this basement sanctuary that recently converted Insectologists go to pass their initiation rites.  It is here that people, such as myself, sit cross-legged in the center of a flurry of entomological activity, and with absolute serenity, accept their place in the universe among their fellow living creatures.  It is in the very same basement that I finish typing these words.  Ooh yuck, something just flew into my mouth.  Gross.  I think I swallowed it.  Maybe I just consider another religion.

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