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Landscape and Inscape
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Wolves and Dogs

Crawled the Mission District of San Francisco in the annual Litquake Litcrawl last night.  http://www.litquake.org/.  Heard words from five poets, three authors, and one singer-songwriter.  Remarkable that even the adlib commentary between spoken works from some of these people was like a literary composition.


One of the remarkable people I had the good fortune to meet this evening was Dorothy Hearst, author of Promise of the Wolves http://www.dorothyhearst.com/.  In a brief conversation we advanced the idea that dogs are the dogs that, historically anyway, we love to love, and that wolves are the dogs that we love to hate.  Later checking Wikipedia I discover that recent genetic research seems to indicate that dogs and wolves are in fact the same species, and archaeologists seem to believe that dogs that dogs diverged from wolves between 15,000 and 35,000 years ago. 


Dorothy is not of course the first author to throw herself to the wolves.  Farley Mowat http://bit.ly/2xvXee , the most-read author of my adolescent years (other than Gerald Durrell), gave us a romp through the intimate lives of tundra wolves in the Kivalliq area of Nunavut, Canada in Never Cry Wolf.  Mowat describes the sociability of wolves.  Interesting that the cultural matrix of the local Ihalmiut developed a model of wolf-caribou ecological interdependence.  As Mowat put it, quoting one of his hosts, “The wolves depend on the caribou, but the wolves keep the caribou populations healthy” – because the wolves consistently target the diseased and infirm (any healthy caribou could outrun a wolf).  Compare this to the European mythical structure in which the forest, the habitat of the woodland European wolf, was perceived to be dangerous and bewildering, and the wolf itself as a denizen of the forest feared and dangerous.  The word “forest” comes from the latin “foris” meaning “outside”. 

Perhaps more familiar to many readers are the works of Jack London whose mirror image books White Fang recounts the acculturation of a wolf by a San Franciscan and Call of the Wild recounts the feralization of a domestic dog.

Posted by geoffreykatz at 10:09 PM PDT

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