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News Clippings

(Daily Telegraph 14th February 1998)

Pet of the week: My eight-legged friend

SALLY Emerson's latest novel about erotic obsession, Heat, contains a description of a spider - "austere, supremely beautiful, neutral, and both careful and careless, the spider plots the strands of her empire". Ariadne, Sally's own Mexican red-kneed tarantula, could be the model for that passage.

Ariadne sits in her tank in the bathroom, spinning a little mat, stirring only to eat a couple of crickets once a week. "Spiders are cool. It's not savagery. It's a kind of wonderful coolness," says Sally.

On a visit to the Smithsonian in Washington, she saw tarantulas being fed and realised she wanted one.

"They pounced on the cricket and sucked out its inside. Then after eating it, they did this extraordinary dance. It was so beautiful - the joy and the excitement of it won me over."

Eighteen months ago, Sally bought her own spider and visits the pet shop regularly for crickets for her to eat. "They chirrup agreeably," she says, "and it does seem rather hard on them to be eaten alive."

The tarantula recognises her feeder's voice and only gets agitated when strangers make a noise in the house. But Sally doubts there's a bond. "Spiders are incapable of love for their own species and they're not cosy pets to be stroked. There is that sense of otherness, which is what I like."

She admires Ariadne, and her sisters, for being "the ultimate feminists". Male spiders are erotically obsessed. "The male will make a tapping rhythm with his feet to attract the female, but quite often she will attack him and tear off a leg. He will tap with one leg missing and go back for more."

'Heat' by Sally Emerson, (Little Brown, 14.99,) is published next week. To join the British Tarantula Society send 10 to BTS, 81 Phillimore Place, Radlett WD7 8NJ.

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