Randolph Splitter has published two books, the novella/story collection Body and Soul (Creative Arts) and a critical study of Marcel Proust from Routledge & Kegan Paul. His recent and forthcoming publications include stories in Chicago Quarterly Review, amphibius, Ducts, The Milo Review, and JewishFiction.net. He’s also written prize-winning screenplays (Gotham Screen, Amsterdam Film Festival, Oaxaca Film Festival) and made short films. The Gotham Screen award-winner is a version of Bonobo Boy. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hamilton College; earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley; taught literature and writing at Caltech and De Anza College; and edited the national literary magazine Red Wheelbarrow.
Randolph, this is quite a chapter. The courtroom scenes are like an amalgamation of the recent Steubenville rape trial and the Scopes Monkey Trial of nearly a century ago. What inspired your work on Bonobo Boy? Should the reader consider the court case and arguments having broader implications than simply relating to Ben individually?
I became interested in the subject of violence (and how to prevent it). I was even teaching classes with that topic. In the process I read a lot about nonhuman primates, and I discovered that bonobos are quite different from chimpanzees—but both are closely related to us.
Yes, there are broader implications. I’d like the reader to think about human gender roles, with bonobos as an alternative role model.
Although I’m firmly committed to realism—depicting what things are really like—I have a fondness for slightly outrageous ideas that stretch the bounds of plausibility but give us deeper insight into reality.