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The Illustrated Insectopedia

Hugh Raffles, Author
Hugh Raffles, Author . Pantheon $30 (465p) ISBN 978-0-375-42386-4
Ebook - 347 pages - 978-0-307-37972-6
Paperback - 480 pages - 978-1-4000-9696-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-10721-2
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Though the title suggests a Latin-heavy lexicon of insects from aphids to wolf spiders , anthropologist Raffles (In Amazonia ) takes a decidedly different approach in his erudite and entertaining paean to bugs. Some chapters focus on nations: the paradox that in Niger, where crops are regularly ravaged by locusts, that very scourge—when salted and fried or boiled like shrimp—is also a protein staple; the craze in Japan for stag and rhinoceros beetles as pets; and the revival of a Chinese tradition—now televised—of crickets locking jaws with the ferocity of fighting dogs. Other sections feature individuals who have dedicated their lives to the contemplation of insects, e.g., the Austrian painter Cornelia Hesse-Honegger, who draws inspiration from radiation-deformed leaf bugs. One short chapter considers same-sex behavior (“interspecies ass play”); a longer one studies the “crush-freaks” who fetishize the close-up sight and amplified sound of bugs being crushed by women's feet. Raffles' eclectic examination of our diverse reactions to bugs, ranging from scholarly and aesthetic awe to revulsion or phobia, is an enthralling hodgepodge of historical fact, anthropological observation, and scientific insight. (Mar.)

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