(Daily Telegraph 14th February 1998)
Pet of the week: My eight-legged
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
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