Book Review: Bird Life at the Pole, by Wolcott Gibbs
by Julie Failla Earhart, Walrus Contributor
A couple of weeks ago I ran across a review for Backward Ran Sentences, a compilation of the best Wolcott Gibbs’ essays written when he was staffer for The New Yorker between 1927 and the mid-1950s. Gibbs is famous for having published more than a million words by the time he was in his mid-thirties. The title, Backward Ran Sentences, came from a piece he wrote in 1936 parodying Time in which he wrote: “Backward ran sentences until the mind reeled.”
Intrigued by the title and Gibbs’ bio, I searched the St. Louis Public Library’s website and found a slew of titles by him. I checked out Bird Life at the Pole, a 1931 comedy featuring Commander Christopher Robin.
Robin is a writer for the Times who is sent to explore the South Pole and to report daily to the editor, Mr. Herbst. Herbst is quite a character. Always full-steam ahead with a million ideas and once an idea has planted itself in his mind, he won’t back down, no matter how ludicrous it may be. And most of his ideas are ludicrous.
Herbst sends Robin off with all the wrong equipment for a “scientific” exploration and the wrong colleagues and crew. Although this was written more than eighty years ago, it still elicited chuckles from this reader. I was especially amused by the penguin who wanted to adopt one of the members of the expedition.
Bird Life at the Pole is probably out of print, but for a fun read, check it out at the library.