Trials of the Monkey

An Accidental Memoir

Matthew Chapman

Picador

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"When Darwin called his second book The Descent of Man instead of The Ascent of Man he was thinking of his progeny."

So declares Darwin's great-great grandson Matthew Chapman as he leaves behind his stressful career as a Hollywood screenwriter and travels to Dayton, Tennessee where in 1925 creationist opposition to the teaching of evolution in schools was played out in a famous legal drama, the Scopes Trial.

The purpose of this journey is to see if opinions have changed in the seventy- five intervening years. A defiant atheist, Chapman is confronted not only by the fundamentalist beliefs that continue to banish the theory of evolution but by his own spiritual malaise as the outward journey becomes an inward quest, a tragicomic "accidental memoir".

"First there was Charles Darwin, two yards long and nobody's fool. Then there was his son, my great-grandfather, Sir Francis Darwin, an eminent botanist. Then came my grandmother Frances, a modest poet who spent a considerable amount of time in rest-homes for depression From her issued my beloved mother, Clare, who was extremely short, failed to complete medical school, and eventually became an alcoholic. Then we get down to me. I'm in the movie business."

Trials of the Monkey combines travel writing and reportage, as Chapman records his encounters in the South, with history and the accidental memoir of a man full of mid-life doubts in a genre-breaking first book that is darkly funny, provocative and poignant.

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Book Excerpts

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  CHAPTER ONEThe EndIt’s a Sunday in June and I’m at the Greyhound Bus Station in New York, waiting to get on a bus. You buy the ticket but it does not guarantee a seat. For that you have to take an escalator down into the vast, clinical basement and stand in line at the appropriate gate. Two African-American women are ahead of me. One of them says, ‘I wouldn’t do that wit’ my own flesh and blood’ The other replies, ‘She did that, she did that, she did that wit’ me.’The gate opens and we all shuffle forward, deposit our bags in a cavity

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Reviews

Praise for Trials of the Monkey

"Funny, irreverent, profound, moving, instructive, and entertaining. How I wish that I had written this book."--Peter Coyote, author of Sleeping Where I Fall: A Chronicle

"This book is not just a sneer at freak-show America. Chapman is too aware of his own foibles and failures to curl his lip . . . Hilarious . . . uncomfortable . . . it's also life-affirming, even if life as lived by Chapman is often damnably itchy." --Nigel Richardson, The Daily Telegraph

“Hugely entertaining...While Chapman can be as funny and revealing as either [Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux] in the travel sections of his book, the autobiographical element plumbs greater depths.”—Tony Gould, The Spectator

“A clever, provocative and very entertaining hotchpotch of confession and redneck theology, a genre all his own.”—Patrick Skene Catling, The Irish Times

"...an absorbing and finely honed journal of courageous, often amusing self-awareness..." --Publishers Weekly

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About the Author

Matthew Chapman

Matthew Chapman was born in Cambridge, England and is the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. He has written and directed five films, and lived for many years in Los Angeles. A Hollywood screenwriter he now lives in Manhattan. Trials of the Monkey is his first book.

Matthew Chapman

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Available Formats and Book Details

Trials of the Monkey
An Accidental Memoir
Matthew Chapman

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Picador
April 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429971843
ISBN10: 1429971843
352 pages
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
July 2002
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312300784
ISBN10: 0312300786
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 384 pages
$20.00
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