“After Moreau”

And here we look at the story to be discussed next week at LibraryThing’s Deep Ones group.

Review: “After Moreau”, Jeffrey Ford, 2008.

I suppose you could call it this an existentialist post-modern story given that it is a sequel and rewriting of H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and one of the films based on it, The Island of Lost Souls. 

But, as is often the case when authors let some other writer do at least half the work in constructing the imaginative scaffold for a story, the central idea behind it is rather trite: all of Moreau’s experimental subjects started as humans (abducted from American beaches) and were turned into animals. 

In this 1,930 word story, our narrator, Hippopotamus Man, tells us what happened post-Moreau: the understated agonies of transformation from Moreau’s injections, the persisting ability to communicate with other victims of the House of Pain, and how they could still have sex with each other. And we get the rewrites of the Lawgiver’s dictums from the film. They are all cheap paradoxes – or, at the very lest, hardly rules — like “Eat Don’t Eat” with only the final rule breaking the pattern: “Fuck Whenver You Want”.

Even among the experimental subjects living in the wake of Moreau’s fall, there are some especially odd ones. The Boars still wear human clothes and talk “crazy politics not of this world”.  Giraffe Man keeps injecting himself with Moreau’s drugs and becomes a putrescent mass.

The narrator and the rest of the inhabitants of the island long for a “true animality” they will never achieve. The narrator describes the very act of writing the story down as a message for a bottle as an example of human madness like Moreau’s experiments.

However, Monkey Mans One and Two want to go back to the human world. The narrator refuses to join them. 

Emphasizing that even the achievement of a more animalistic, sensual life is fraught with risks, they tell the narrator that, eventually, Panther Woman is going to stop having sex with him and devour him instead. Hippo Man knows that.

(Spoilers ahead)

In the last paragraph, the narrator says all the inhabitants of the island ate parts of Moreau after his death. Mouse Person ate Moreau’s brain. He ended up haunted by it and said he was the Devil. Eventually, some other animals push him off a cliff and into the sea. His body was never found. However, Monkey Man Number One smells him and claims to have found mouse droppings. I suppose the last bit is a suggestion that, as long as they retain any humanity, their civilization will have a devil. 

Yes, pure animality makes things like Panther Woman’s and Hippopotamus Man’s relationship possible. Yet, the existence of Hippopotamus Man and his fellow victims is a precarious one. Their sensual delights are doomed to end. Their intellectual purusits are futile ones. As I said, it all seems a metaphor for life. Just not a particularly interesting one.

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