Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Friday, 2 January 2009

Reading A Book Twice By Accident

Over the holidays I started reading Gorillas Were My Neighbors by Fred C. Merfield, a big game hunter in the French Cameroons during the first half of the twentieth century. It's a fun little book from a different era, when hunters led huge safaris through the little-known jungle blasting away at animals with gleeful abandon.

As I started reading it I recognized a couple of the stories he told, but I figured they were common tales from Africa and I had read them somewhere before. It took until I was a third of the way through the book before I realized that I had read them before, in this very book. It had been sitting on my shelf since I bought it at a library sale twelve years ago, and for some reason I'd forgotten I'd read it. I guess this means my library is getting out of control. I've met people who have bought the same book twice because they forgot they already had a copy, or they simply couldn't find it on the shelves!

Remarkably, Merfield was a bit of a preservationist, calling for limits on hunting seventy years ago. He also had a lot of respect for the local cultures, although he also pointed out any flaws he saw. This is a refreshing change from modern political correctness, which sees only the good, and traditional (and modern) racism, which only sees the bad. Merfield spent most of his life in Africa, and unlike a lot of colonial officials he worked and lived with Africans. This book is well worth a read for its engaging style, exciting anecdotes, and insights into traditional cultures. Affordable used copies can easily be found at all the usual online outlets.


Chris Overstreet said...

I frequently purchase the same book multiple times. Occasionally it's because I find an unusual edition of something I already have, but usually it's because I don't remember that I already own it. I'm sure the respective authors don't mind.

Often times I will read a book twice or more, but not usually by accident. I find that setting aside a book that I enjoyed very much, then picking it up again years later, is the best way to make it a "new" experience again.

Sean McLachlan said...

I'm learning many things I'd forgotten, for example the fine art of rifle fishing. I'm sure you've heard of grenade fishing, where a hungry soldier tosses a grenade into a pond and the concussion brings all the fish bobbing to the surface. Rifle fishing works on the same principle. Apparently many streams in Africa are so full of fish (at least back then) that you could fire a bullet into the water and it would pass close enough to one or two fish to stun them and bring them to the surface. Much more efficient and satisfying than using a line and bait! How could I have forgotten a wonderful piece of trivia like that?