The Worst - Part II

                    By Charles McGrath and Daniel Menaker



"The Best Mammal: 1. My dog.  2. Blue whale  3. Humans  4. Leopard"


The Worst Mammal: Jimmy’s tapir (Pseudoporcus dormiens), a large, entirely bald riparian ungulate of Paraguay.  A herd of Jimmy’s tapirs was discovered lolling in a backwater of the Purulencia River in 1973 by an elderly English prospector named James Gormless, but no one took him seriously until he went back the following year and made a tape recording of their snickering love call.  At maturity these animals weigh around two hundred pounds; they are industrial green in color, and the males are distinguishable by two tan chevrons on the rump.  The tapirs are almost perfectly spherical in shape — which appears to make them unattractive as prey, even though they are utterly defenseless — and scientific investigation has shown that they have only a vestigial digestive system.  They live on microscopic algae, which they absorb through the craterlike pores on their backs while floating motionless in stagnant pools of water.  It used to be thought that Jimmy’s tapirs were too indolent and slovenly to have any social structure, but zoologists have recently established that there is in fact a rigid hierarchy among these animals, with the highest ranks held by depressed males whose mates have left them.


"The  Best Lost City: Ciudad Perdida, Colombia"



The Worst Lost City

Axlotl, in the Yucatan, discovered in 1968 by the pilot of an off-course helicopter from Mexico City.  Scholars have speculated that the Axlotlans may have suffered from low self-esteem, since the city’s layout resembles a huge maggot.  In any case, there are only two structures still standing in Axlotl — a squat, trapezoidal temple to the god of humidity, and a building with a sign that says, in Mayan, “Popo’s Refried Beans.”  The rest of the city, which seems to have consisted largely of efficiency flats and human-sacrifice facilities, lies in ruins.  Excavations have shown that the Axlotlans invented many things but didn’t know what they were for, as is evident from murals depicting washing-machine duels and maidens attempting to milk windmills.  Axlotl was abandoned in 1365, shortly after all the city’s streets had been repaved with yeast.


"Best Ice Cream Flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip"


The Five Worst Ice Cream Flavors

1.      I’m a Lima Sherbet

2.      Cheddar Chip

3.      Shrimp Gumbo

4.      Bits o’ Broccoli

5.      Tobacco Road


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Charles McGrath, former Deputy Editor of the New Yorker and Editor of the New York Times Book Review, is Writer-at-Large for the Times.     

Daniel Menaker is the Editor of Grin & Tonic.

July 25: On this day in 1834 Samuel Taylor Coleridge died of heart disease at the age of sixty-one.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).