My new favorite rat story

is not so much a great rat story as a rat story that proves a rat point, and maybe a point about nature. It has to do with the difference between wild rats and pet rats, which is a distinction I thought I made in the book (see chapter 2) but a distinction I had to constantly reiterate while on the road, even to people who were kind enough to have read my book, or to have acted as if they had read my book—as a rat author, I am under no delusions. People often brought pictures of their pet rats to share with me; some people brought their children with their children’s pictures of their pet rats, sometimes called fancy rats. And at one reading in Berkeley, California, I thought I was going to have a rat riot on my hands when a small group of people showed up thinking I was against pet rats or something—and, again, I’m not, I swear. It’s just that wild rats aren’t at all like pet rats—they are not, I repeat not, cute and cuddly, believe me.

Anyway, I heard my favorite new rat story from a young couple who live in Brooklyn. They showed up at a reading in lower Manhattan. They didn’t say anything during the rats question-and-answer section of my presentation, but afterward the man came over alone, and, pulling me aside, asked if he could speak with me for a moment. I was a little worried about what he was going to ask me—I’m no good, for instance, at relationship advice. But he eventually explained that his girlfriend worked for an animal-welfare organization. She had adopted a rat that had been rescued from the World Trade Center and handed over to her animal-welfare group; the caged rat had survived the tower’s destruction. The man recounted to me how, after a while, his girlfriend took the rat home. It developed cancer and died a short while later, but they had both grown accustomed to the rat and were saddened by the empty cage. One evening, while walking home through the streets of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn—a neighborhood that has seen its ups and downs and is lately beginning to see some ups again—the man spotted a small rat on the sidewalk, a juvenile. He decided to bring it home to the empty cage, as a gift to his girlfriend. He caught it with his hands, noting immediately that it was more aggressive than their previous rat. At home, the rat grew quickly, but while the couple had assumed it might mellow, it did not. Indeed, the opposite happened. The man said that when he placed food in the cage, he made certain to quickly jerk out his hand; he likened feeding the rat in the cage to feeding a piranha. As the man recounted this rat story to me, his girlfriend finally approached, and soon they were both describing their fear of their new “pet” rat. I say fear because their eyes beseeched me, hoping I would understand, and, frankly, I did, because I’ve been there, sort of—I mean, I’ve been with wild rats. They told me that they wanted to release the rat in a park—coincidentally, a park in the borough of Queens that I knew from my childhood. But they were afraid the rat might jump out of the cage and immediately turn and attack them. I told them to be careful; I told them to play it safe. I suggested that one release option might be to open the cage and run like hell. I also told them that I was glad to hear a story that proved once and for all the difference between the wild and pet versions of Rattus norvegicus—proved it to me, at least. In my own mind, I equate the difference between wild Rattus norvegicus and fancy Rattus norvegicus to the difference between American Homo sapiens and European Homo sapiens—same species, completely different upbringing.

Rats by Robert Sullivan


All at once, as if at an invisible signal, the rats began a high-pitched,

almost musical squeal that I took as either a battle cry or a cry for mercy. All of them—the old, the adolescents, even some with young children, making this as-musical-as-it-may-have-been-to-them, earsplitting-to-me sound, as if to say: “What now? What are you accusing us of that you would yourselves not have done? Is it so very wrong that we find food for ourselves and for our families? Is it so wrong that we love and, as a consequence along with the Universal Law of Life, reproduce? Is it our collective fault that we scurry out of the way to seek shelter when attacked by a far-larger foe? Yes, we know our tails are hairless as opposed to those of squirrels, which for some reason you humans seem to find attractive, even going so far as to bring bags of nuts to them in parks and cemeteries while all we rats do is mostly give you the creeps, but have you ever once thought that this may only be because you yourselves are mostly hairless and don’t wish to be reminded of that fact? And surely,” the rats seemed to be keening from on high, “though at this moment you humans as a species find yourselves at what you, in your limited wisdom, believe is the top of the evolutionary ladder, really, how long can that last? Why not show a little mercy, you So-called Intelligent Ones, because you will not always be where you are now, on top of the food chain, and when that time comes, you’ll need a little mercy shown yourselves?”

I attempted to put my fingers in my ears, but to do that and keep hold of my bat was too difficult.

Erased by Jim Krusoe


Rats are almost as fecund as germs.

In New York, under fair conditions, they bear from three to five times a years, in litters of from five to twenty-two. They live to be three or four years old, although now and then one may live somewhat longer; a rat at four is older than a man at ninety. “Rats that survive to the age of four are the wisest and the most cynical beasts on earth,” one exterminator says. “A trap means nothing to them, no matter how skilfully set. They just kick it around until it snaps; then they eat the bait. And they can detect poisoned bait a yard off. I believe some of them can read.”

“The Rats on the Waterfront” by Joseph Mitchell


Recently a man moved there with his wife, and he discovered hundreds of rats

in his basement. They were huge, slow-moving child-eyed rats.

When his wife had to visit some of her relatives for a few days, the man went out and bought a .38 revolver and a lot of ammunition. Then he went down to the basement where the rats were, and he started shooting them. It didn’t bother the rats at all. They acted as if it were a movie and started eating their dead companions for popcorn.

The man walked over to a rat that was busy eating a friend and placed the pistol against the rat’s head. The rat did not move and continued eating away. When the hammer clicked back, the rat paused between bites and looked out of the corner of its eye. First at the pistol and then at the man. It was a kind of friendly look as if to say, “When my mother was young she sang like Deanna Durbin.”

The man pulled the trigger.

He had no sense of humor.


Adonis, Attis, Osiris

For the one when Ang watched us having sex, she was in bed between Joe and I. She had me start playing with his cock, getting him hard with my hands, then going down on him. We were all naked at that point, and she was making out with him while I sucked his cock. That went on for like 20 minutes or so, and eventually he wanted to fuck me. I bent over and he fucked me doggy style while I ate Angela out. Once he came in me, Ang had me 69 her so I could lick her while she fingered my ass. She then had me lay on my side in a fetal position while she fingered me some more. My ass was really sore, but she had a lot of fun doing that to me.

The other time, when Joe came over one night while Ang was working late, he and I were just hanging out and got pretty drunk. He said he wanted to fuck, then once I got in a doggy position he told me to turn over instead. Joe ended up fucking me in a missionary position with my legs all the way up. That was the first time I actually had to look up at him while he fucked me.

I don’t think I've ever felt so vulnerable and dominated before. Really all I could do was grab my legs and hold on while he fucked me. He was really able to grab a hold of me and move me around, while getting at me from all different angles. Basically, it allowed him to get in as deep as possible and fuck me as hard as he could.


I started using plastics which all belong to the same family of prosthetic-grade plastics,

I think as a way of both referring to the protective equipment that surrounded me as football player and to the possibility of taking some of those materials and putting them inside your body. You know, the potential for some of these materials to live both internally and externally as a way of building the architecture of the body inward and outward.

I think that within that family of plastics, I wanted there to be a liquid state. You know, a lot of these materials, their defining quality is their resistance to friction. And, of course, Vaseline petroleum jelly is a lubricant, so I think the initial impulse was more to do with making objects as a student and being repelled by how dry they were, and just wanting to moisten them. It's also something that was just present all the time in the training room. There was always petroleum jelly, there was always the mentholated petroleum jelly that they would put on the roof of your mouth if you had cotton mouth or put on your ankles before they taped them. There was always this layer of lubricant.

Matthew Barney


The Reality of the Symbol

Within half an hour, the sculpture’s level had sunk about a foot. The yellow stuff was oozing out onto the blue Astro-Turf (in homage to Bronco Stadium) that covered the floor, but what had looked to me like a full-scale disaster, or, at the least, like a wholly unexpected variation on the lost-wax method of making sculpture, was apparently nothing of the kind. “We're at the mercy of the material,” Barney observed, with a smile that was just short of seraphic.

“The Vaseline is behaving like I’ve never seen it behave,” he said, somewhat later. “I think it’s because of the amount of the mass and the force behind it. You’re getting the kind of shearing that you see in glacial ice. If you’re out on a glacier for any length of time, you feel like everything’s moving, but you can’t see it moving. Which is lovely, that feeling. You have a little of that here.”

The opening was set for seven-forty-five the next evening. I got there on time, and found the space already jammed with people. Most of them were in another lobby, adjacent to the one with the sculpture, because the sculpture had taken over all but a few feet of the blue Astro-Turf. It had more or less stopped moving now. It looked like an avalanche, with jagged fissures, and hills and valleys, and crumpled areas where it had piled up on itself. Barney, wearing the same loose black shirt he’d had on earlier, looked tired but extremely alert. I asked him whether he’d expected the sculpture to behave the way it had. “The intention was to emphasize the entropic nature of the ‘Cremaster’ cycle,” he replied, a bit formally. Then, grinning, he said, “It failed more than I thought it would. But I’m very happy with it. You have to surrender a certain control.”

The New Yorker, January 27, 2003



I checked Rm 205 and it was covered with vasoline and the room carpet was covered also and was slippery to walk on. I noticed white crumb particles strewn about on top of the light stand, which was slathered in vasoline and tested some of the particles, which tested positive for cocaine. Also left behind in the room were two black garbage bags full of trash. I sorted thru both bags and collected about fourteen empty containers of vasoline and numerous charred/used chore boy screens, indications of crack cocaine use. All of the contents in the trash bag were covered with vasoline along with numerous pornographic magazines which were also slathered/smeared with vasoline. I checked the motels on Old Front Street and located Robert F. Chamberlain at the Econolodge and he was registered in Room 312. Myself and Sgt Oliver went to Room 312 and spoke with Robert who said he had just checked out of Rm 205 at the Motel 6. Robert was placed under arrest for felony criminal mischief 3rd° and I Mirandized him. Robert was also smeared from head to foot with vasoline.

Broome County Sherriff's Office Incident Report (05/09/2004)


remember 1998?

JERUSALEM, Jan. 29— Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Yasir Arafat would admit it, but the scandal that broke in Washington last week in the midst of their separate meetings with President Clinton was a boon for the Israeli Prime Minister and a setback for the Palestinian leader.

If the leaders concealed their sentiments behind diplomatic words, some hard-liners made no secret of theirs. Focusing on the fact that the woman in the latest scandal, Monica S. Lewinsky, is Jewish, Muslim fundamentalists like Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, painted her as an agent of “world Zionism,” while some nationalist rabbis were said to have depicted her as a biblical Esther, who garnered favor with the ruler to save her people.

New York Times