August 6, 2010

"He stands swaying, his actions only slightly interrupted by the amputation of half his head."

Writes Gordon Grice in "The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators."
Then, while she is still eating, he crawls onto her back. He seems in this semiheadless state to have found a renewed vigor and sense of purpose. There will be no more showy stunts. His pale penis emerges from the rear of his body, extruded between the plates of his exoskeleton. His abdomen snakes around beside hers and forms a painful-looking curve. They begin to copulate.
Mantis sex. That description! Whew! It goes on...
Turning her face almost 180 degrees, she regards him for a moment, as if his attentions were a distasteful surprise. Then, twisting with some difficulty, she brings her raptorial forelimbs into position and strikes again. This time she retrieves the remainder of his head and a scrap of his thorax, from which one foreleg dangles.

He doesn't seem to mind.
He doesn't seem to mind! Ha. Well, try minding something when you have no mind. Anyway, there's quite a bit more, and the main idea is that the male insect's sexual performance is improved by the absence of a head: "He performs with more gusto once he's decapitated." Apparently, the brain is a source of inhibition.

I have exclamation points in the margin in this passage of the book, which I read a dozen years ago (when I went through a period of intense fascination with the essay form). I just got the book down from the shelf to answer a question over on Ask MetaFilter: "Can you please recommend good books (fiction or nonfiction) or websites about insects and/or spiders..? Not so much identification books, but ones about how they live, interact, etc." It was fun reading that again. I should leaf through other old books of mine and pluck out passages with exclamatory marginalia.

19 comments:

Scott said...

I think The Crack MC is going to see this as some kind of metaphor.

Lem said...

Crack bait.

Fred4Pres said...

Ann, did you get that from the transcripts of Crack's divorce proceedings?

Fred4Pres said...

Not that Crack got his head eaten by his ex wife (Crack still has a hell of a mind from the quality of his posts), we are talking metaphorically of course.

George Grady said...

Along those lines, Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation is a good read.

knox said...

try minding something when you have no mind

I'll pass, if you don't mind!

chuck said...

For a fictional treatment, "Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death" by James Tiptree Junior.

James Tiptree Jr. was a great writer of science fiction, a woman who was kicked out of a group of women science fiction writers because, as a man, she just couldn't understand. Heh, she did love her secrets.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Grice's book exists as an
artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct
roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.

edutcher said...

I guess the female likes head.

(I know...)

Luther said...

Priorities. Always priorities. Reaching, and possibly attaining the center of the universe is right at the top. Of my list anyway. Half a head, no head, who cares.

Remember the frozen Chosin.

William said...

Here at the rectory, I'm sometimes criticized for my subscription to an internet site that documents the irrational love that amputee Russian women have for farm animals. Love is where you find it, and the heart has many mysteries. I must say, however, that there is something a little off-putting about your enthusiasm for this type of literature. I would advise Meade to check under the bed for sharp metal instruments. Who knows where such excesses may lead.

DKWalser said...

There is a very similar scene in Master and Commander, the novel by Patrick O'Brian. I'm not suggesting that Gordon Grice copied O'Brian, I'm just struck by the similarity.

bagoh20 said...

This is why I never married. The human female aims lower, and tortures rather than kills.

jamboree said...

That is the most disgusting horror story I've ever heard - beats Silence of the Lambs.

Penny said...

"I guess the female likes head."

Haha, sheeeeee....

It's our little secret! ;)

Penny said...

I guess the female likes "head".

EDH said...

You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth.

Will he offer me his mouth?
Yes
Will he offer me his teeth?
Yes
Wlll he offer me his jaws?
Yes
Will he offer me his hunger?
Yes
Again. Will he offer me his hunger?
Yes
And will he starve without me?
Yes
And does he love me?
Yes
Yes
On a hot summer night.
Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?
Yes
I bet you say that to all the boys.

The Crack Emcee said...

This is what they call "feminist porn".

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

Girlfriend, you need to read "Beat the Reaper."

Critics describe it as "Sopranos meets House." And they are right on.

Best book I've read all summer (sadly it only took a day, so my pleasure was short-lived.) But wow, was it fantastic.

Go get it now!