Rats | Granta

  • Published: 01/11/2012
  • ISBN: 9781847087881
  • Granta Books
  • 256 pages


Robert Sullivan

Surprisingly funny and compulsively readable, Rats is an unlikely account of a year spent in a garbage-strewn alley in lower Manhattan. Sullivan spends the year with a notebook and night-vision goggles, hunting for fabled rat-kings, trapping a rat of his own, and trying (and failing) to conquer his own fear of rats. He meets the exterminators, garbage men and civic activists who play their part in the centuries-old war between human city-dweller and wild city rat. He travels to a bizarre Midwestern conference on rats that brings together the leading experts on rat history, behaviour, and control (did you know that one pair of rats can produce 15,000 descendants in a year? That rats’ teeth are harder than steel?). In the process, he discovers the many ways in which rats’ lives mirror those of humans. Sullivan’s unusual and absorbing book earns a place alongside the classics of travel writing.

Sullivan's account of a year spent watching rats in a New York alley exerts the pull of the macabre ... fascinating

Independent on Sunday

[A] charming, intellectually inspiring and endiessly fascinating burrow through the world of the city Rattus Norvegicus


Fascinating and frankly scary. A great book which breaks new ground


The Author

Robert Sullivan is a contributing editor to Vogue and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker. He is the author of Rats: A Year with New York’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants and A Whale Hunt. He lives in New York.

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From the Same Author

The Meadowlands

Robert Sullivan

Just five miles west of New York City, the Meadowlands is an untamed, vilified, half-developed and smelly tract of swampland. It is home to rare birds and missing bodies, tranquil marshes and a major sports arena, burning garbage dumps and corporate headquarters, the remains of the original Penn Station and possibly those of more than one mafioso. Acclaimed writer Robert Sullivan proves himself to be the perfect explorer, historian and archaeologist for this fragile yet amazingly resilient region. He tramps through the muck on foot and navigates the polluted rivers in a canoe, all the while describing the industrial detritus with as much zeal as he observes the surprisingly rich diversity of wildlife. The Meadowlands is an ode to an overlooked American borderland, a delightfully incongruous battleground marking the ongoing struggle between the forces of progress and nature.