Bloomsbury, New York, 2004
From my TBR pile.
Some of you may know I have a thing about animals. Domesticated animals, wild animals, animals with back bones, animals with exoskeletons, and animals with no skeletons at all. I like rats and have even kept them as pets.
Rats is a book that made me laugh and made my skin crawl (not an easy thing to do). A pair of rats can produce 15,000 baby rats a year. Rats can gnaw through concrete. A rat’s skeleton can collapse, allowing the rat to pass through a space the size of its skull.
Robert Sullivan, interested in rats because of their shared habitat with humans, spent a year investigating a rat-invested alley in New York City. His book is crammed with rat facts, thoughts about rat-human interactions and the history of New York. The people in this book are a fascinating and eccentric collection of city garbage managers, rat-catchers and rat specialists. Sullivan takes full advantage of their stories as he makes some interesting connections about our relationship with these rodents.
Sometimes, I confess, as I sat in the alley late that summer and watched a rat emerge, as I studied its now predictable but still surprising path towards food, I felt an odd thrill of wild delight at the notion that I could perhaps myself catch that rat, trap it. It occurred to me that the rat catcher, spending his time in basements, dilapidated apartments and alleys, is, in a strange way, part of the rat’s natural environment, more so than the average rat-avoiding citizen. Trapping would provide a means to observing a wild Rattus norvegicus up close. From page 130
Sullivan’s understanding of human impact on an urban environment, and his curiosity about the way we and rats have evolved to live together, make this a fun and enjoyable read (if it doesn’t gross you out) and I have to say that the times I’ve spent in NYC I was much more freaked out by the scurrying of cockroaches than the occasional sight of a rat running up an alley!
Rats have adapted to live around and take advantage of humans. It is not their fault that they are so smart and we are so messy. An added bonus, the beautiful cover by Pete Sís.