Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fortuitous Reading

Okay, there are a lot of reasons why I haven't stopped talking about The Hive over the past few days. It's a great overview of how bees show up in human culture, and you don't need more than a passing interest in apiculture to find it intriguing that people have been able to draw just about any metaphor for sexual politics from the beehive, right? Or why people stopped drinking mead a long time ago?

Come on, it's not just me.

But beyond all the great cultural trivia in The Hive, I love that it connects to so many other books I'm familiar with - two of them in particular.

Bee Wilson - and yes, she notes the irony of her name and choice of topic - spends some time on the amazing work done by Francois Huber and Francois Burnens. Huber was blind and Burnens was a peasant who lucked into some education, but between the two of them they turned out some pretty impressive observations on things like the queen's nuptial flight. And they were the subject of Sara George's The Beekeeper's Pupil, which I picked up back in college.

And if I hadn't already been half in love with The Hive, this bit from the last chapter would have done it:
Like everything else about Holmes's life, his elderly vocation as beekeeper has attracted keen debate... Where in the Sussex Downs did Holmes base his apiary? When was he there? Could he have joined forces with a young female apprentice to fight crime in the area?
Is that a namecheck of Mary Russell? Very nearly. Am I looking forward to reading The Language of Bees a second time before its official release date (and then seeing the author in Westport next weekend)? Oh, yes.

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