Most of the book is a collection of essays about the author's childhood in 1890s New York.Father dominates these stories, as he did the household.A domestic tyrant with a soft heart, he is a great period piece (should he give Mother an allowance, or would that be just an added expense?) and an amusing character study.
"Thoughts without Words" is a short section: sketches with doggerel.
``This Simian World'' is an extended essay on the characteristics that humans share with monkeys, which allow us to dominate the world and determine the use we will make of our mastery.The second half of the essay is heavily anti-religious, which is well-written but not so original; the better part is the first half, imagining how a human race descended from cats or other animals would have been different.("In literature they would not have begged for happy endings.")As I write that, I don't think I would have found the premise too interesting if it had been described to me in advance, but it is well done, with moments of beauty:
The elephant?Ah!Evolution has had its tragedies, hasn't it, as well as its triumphs, and well should the elephant know it.He had the best chance of all.Wiser even than the lion, or the wisest of apes, his wisdom furthermore was benign where theirs was sinister.Consider his dignity, his poise and skill.He was plastic, too.He had learned to eat many foods and endure many climates.Once, some say, this race explored the globe.Their bones are found everywhere, in South America even; so the elephants' Columbus may have found some road here before ours.They are cosmopolitans, these suave and well-bred beings.They have rich emotional natures, long memories, loyalty; they are steady and sure; and not narrow, not self-absorbed, for they seem interested in everything.What was it, then, that put them out of the race?
Could it have been a quite natural belief that they had already won?
And when they saw that they hadn't, and that the monkey-men were getting ahead, were they too great-minded and decent to exterminate their puny rivals? ...
If we had been as strong as the elephants, we might have been kinder.When great power comes naturally to people, it is used more urbanely.We use it as parvenus do, because that's what we are.The elephant, being born to it, is easy-going, confident, tolerant.He would have been a more humane king.
eBook The Best of Clarence Day, Including God and My Father, Life With Father, Life With Mother, This Simian World, and Selections from Thoughts Without Words