All legs good

Living in a shared world

Featured in

  • Published 20231107
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-89-4
  • Extent: 207pp
  • Paperback, ePub, PDF, Kindle compatible

READER, I’VE TRIED. I’ve tried so hard not to begin this introduction by writing about my cats. But here I am, writing about my cats. I can’t stop myself.

They’re both rescues. My partner and I picked one each from Brisbane’s RSPCA shelter nearly four years ago: I chose Nancy (now eleven years old, tortoiseshell, confident); my partner chose Emmett (now five-and-a-half years old, fluffy, confused). Both cats go by many other names – Nancy’s aliases include Inspector Kopanski and Nancy Pawlosi, Squeaker of the House; Emmett is sometimes Mr Bumblypants or Sir Fluffalot. These monikers, obviously, say far more about my partner and me than they do about our cats. 

I sometimes wish I could ask Nancy and Emmett what their lives were like before they came to live with us – if they were other people’s pets before they became ours, or if they were on the lam, hiding behind skips and learning survival skills such as how to unwrap a kebab (a talent possessed by my partner’s previous cat, Charlie). I usually conclude that it’s better not to know, and that the language we do share – the gestures and noises and facial expressions – tells me enough about them to make up for the mysteries of their past. 

I suppose this imperfect communication is part of why we human animals find our non-human counterparts so beguiling, why they sometimes seem to possess magical or otherworldly qualities. We never quite know what they’re thinking, despite our best attempts to understand them. And the more they differ from us – if they’re winged or scaled or six-legged or breathe through a set of gills – the more removed we’re likely to feel from their ­experience of the world and their right to exist within it. 

Animals still outnumber humans, despite our best efforts (we represent just 0.01 per cent of all life on Earth). And while they could live happily without us – our cruelty, our destruction, our ridiculous nicknames – we simply couldn’t survive without them.

THIS EDITION OF Griffith Review illuminates the magic and mystery of animals – those we’re lucky enough to still share the planet with, and those, like dodos and dinosaurs, who are no longer here. It celebrates the complex bonds we have with all kinds of other creatures and reminds us what’s at stake for their – and our – survival, thanks to the widespread environmental impacts of humanity’s presence. The stories in this collection explore animals in life and in death, in the sea and in the soil, in the zoo and in the museum, in literature and film, in our imaginations and our memories and our homes. 

(I should tell you now that there isn’t a piece about my cats, but if you’d like to know more about them I’m always ready with an anecdote and a series of supporting photos.) 

Thanks, as always, to the wonderful Griffith Review team for their unfailing hard work, excellent ideas and good humour. And thanks to Nancy and Emmett for coming to live with me and choosing to stay.

8 September 2023

Share article

More from author

Mix ’n’ mash 

GR OnlineThere's a huge amount of luck and discovery involved with the collage technique where – if it’s not reaching the randomness of aleatory music – it’s pretty darn close to genuine randomness and dumb luck.

More from this edition

As dead as

Non-fictionAs a Mauritian person, I’ve always known about dodos. I first heard about them from my dad’s family. The dodo was only ever found in Mauritius, and I naively believed that everyone knew that. But when I was relaying my experience of listening to the podcast to a group of friends, they were surprised to hear that the dodo was Mauritian. They are not the only ones. Since that conversation, I’ve been playing ‘where does the dodo come from?’ for months. Not many people know, and I’ve been angered by this, not at my friends but at the way in which stories of the dodo seemingly exist outside of place and time, when to me place and time are integral to my understanding of the dodo. 


FictionHe hasn’t caught one in twelve years or more, not since just before Ritchie – Hayley’s oldest – was born. The deboning alone can take half a morning and you have to strip that tail to its cartilage very carefully because there’s a layer of green resin, bitter. In small doses it ruins the meat; poisonous if you eat too much.

Sartre’s lobsters 

Non-fictionIn The Secret Life of Lobsters (2004), Trevor Corson describes how, before the lobster’s status had sufficiently improved for affluent urbanites to desire its meat, ‘lobster’ was used derogatorily to describe British redcoats during the American Revolution and, later, dupes or fools in general.  Which brings me to Jordan Peterson.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.