Coyote As Totem of America, A New Yorker piece by Ottessa Moshfegh

For the week of July 4th, The New Yorker “asked writers to describe a person, object, or experience that they think captures a distinctly American spirit.” I’ve reprinted several paragraphs here, of this New Yorker article, with a link to the original for continued reading. Illustration (by Oliver Munday) and text (by Ottessa Moshfegh)©The New Yorker, July 6, 2016. Enjoy!

2016-07-07“The other day, I watched a wounded coyote jaunt down my street in East Hollywood. It limped suavely along the sidewalk at a confident clip, its mouth open in happy wonder or obscene hilarity—I couldn’t get a good read on him. Or maybe what I thought I saw in his eyes was just a projection of my own state of wonder at this gorgeous creature gliding coolly across my world of concrete and palm trees, elevating my humdrum hunt for a parking spot to a moment of amazement. I followed the coyote for a while in my car, then stopped to watch it step into busy Virgil Avenue, where it dodged cars so calmly, so expertly, that it almost appeared to be controlling the flow of traffic with its mind.

Los Angeles coyotes live in the hills, in parks, in landfills, under highway overpasses. We hear them howl at night. They are indelible players in the theatre of the city, and frequent sightings remind us that this land itself is still a volatile and largely untamable frontier. A strange and dangerous paradise, L.A., and we stubborn fools insist on staying put despite earthquakes, drought, forest fires, the dwindling shoreline. I like living here because the illusory nature of reality is perversely obvious. Around every corner there’s another movie scene; a fictional shimmer rises up off the city through the smog. As a writer, my imagination feels freer here than in my native New England.

There were coyotes back East, of course, but I like the peculiar grittiness and verve of L.A. coyotes. Their daytime presence in the city has increased with the drought. They come out in search of food and water. They don’t seem afraid of humans. Many humans, however, are afraid of them. In the suburbs especially, the fear is apparent: people arm themselves when they walk around at night. If a coyote comes onto your property, they say, shoot it on sight. Don’t leave your doors open.

Coyotes very rarely attack humans, by the way”. . . . [to continue reading please visit:]

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ella Dine
    Jul 08, 2016 @ 16:47:21

    This is such a terrific article. I have often thought about the discrimination against coyotes versus the adoration of the wolf. It’s utterly baffling. Thanks for the great post!


  2. Cindie
    Jul 08, 2016 @ 17:23:57

    FANTASTIC article! Brilliant! I hope it opens minds! So good!


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