AN EVER-CHANGING PLACE by John Melville with Naomi Hawes Bishop Bishop


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The Bishops spent a year in the Nepalese village of Melemchi, studying langurs in the forest by day and observing the Sherpas throughout the year. Although they followed just one troop of eighteen, the homogeneity of the monkeys' appearance made identification difficult (except for a few key figures), so this chronological narrative lacks the unifying element of distinct individuals which makes works like Jane Goodall's so broadly appealing. They isolated six behavioral complexes--grooming, huddling, embracing, play, sex, vocalizations--and discuss their contexts and frequencies; for example, au calls are fairly common, a whoop indicates an impending move, and the rare toothgrinding signals heavy tension. Living in the village, with a treasured assistant who handled household chores, gave them access to local legends and rituals, and their characterization of this alien culture is more entertaining than the monkey data. Marriage by kidnapping is no longer so prevalent, sticking out one's tongue is a gesture meaning no-words-are-adequate, and villagers seeking prosperity emigrate to ""Burma""--which means anyplace outside Nepal that needs workers. There's a debate on the best way to play dead for a bear (face up or down), something called janmalo kursani (man-killer pepper) which spices up festival foods, and the surprise of near-white rhododendron 10,000 feet up. A briskly paced armchair excursion to the Himalayas.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Simon & Schuster