Last Tuesday I mentioned that bestselling author Sara Gruen was going to be in my neighborhood. Well, tonight was the night and I was there.
Sara began by sharing some vignettes of her experience with meeting the bonobos from the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa -- then she read from her latest novel [Ape House] and fielded questions from the audience.
She spoke very lovingly of the bonobos, and recounted a fascinating incident between her and Panbanisha [to whom she dedicates her novel]. When Sara first met Panbanisha [a Congolese bonobo ape] she showed some photos. Pictures of Sara's dogs evoked no response from the ape. But when Panbanisha viewed images of Sara's children in a bathtub, surrounded with soapsuds, the ape spelled out on the lexigrams "Babies/washing/bubbles".
They immediately established a friendship, and when Sara left, Panbanisha "said" to one of the scientists "Where's Sara? Build her nest. When's she coming back?"
Sara Gruen was so interesting and down-to-earth and lovely.
Overhearing the conversation between her and the two ladies ahead of me in the lineup to meet her -- I learned that the movie version of Water For Elephants is due for release in April of 2011. It will be starring Reese Witherspoon and Sara will have a cameo appearance in it.
When taking the photo above [with yours truly in it, spoiling the shot]…. Sara said to the photographer [a Chapters worker]… "OK, say 1 - 2 - 3 and then snap it!"
She then turned her face towards me [a wonder-filled moment, I assure you] and then whipped it back on "3".
"It's the only way I can look natural," she said.
This is when I spelled out, on my lexigram thing --> "Natural/yes/very".
"You cannot have a two-way conversation with a great ape, or even just look one straight in the eye, close up, without coming away changed."
-- Sara Gruen --