Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir” as Want to Read:
Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  133 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
"When Darwin called his second book The Descent of Man instead of The Ascent of Man he was thinking of his progeny."

So declares Darwin's great-great grandson Matthew Chapman as he leaves behind his stressful career as a Hollywood screenwriter and travels to Dayton, Tennessee where in 1925 creationist opposition to the teaching of evolution in schools was played out in a fa
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 5th 2002 by Picador (first published December 31st 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Trials of the Monkey, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Trials of the Monkey

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Matthew Chapman is the great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin. He's also a screenwriter and director of some note — at least to his lights. He's also an avowed atheist who decided to investigate the site of the famous "monkey trial," the infamous battle between religion and science in Dayton, Tennessee immortalized in the wonderful film Inherit the Wind. The book becomes a combination historical narrative/ memoir/personal voyage. He explains his interest in the Scopes trial this way: After a bus ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
It's kind of hard to like a memoir when the author works so hard to portray himself as unlikeable.
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
[re-post from my old blog]

Through a strange serendipity (is there any other kind?), I started reading Trials of the Monkey at about the same time as I was watching the Nova show Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. In Judgment Day, the author of Trials, is interviewed. An avowed atheist and great-great-grandson of Darwin himself, Matthew Chapman is now a successful screenwriter, living in New York City.

He was feeling closed in by the rat race that is Hollywood and began casting about for
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Matthew Chapman obviously suffers from ADD,(actually he seems more like a direct descendent of the Bonobo Ape than Darwin :) probably some mild dyslexia, and has a family history of addiction with depression which stem from neurological and biological disorders rather than from spiritual lack.

Chapman's spirit seems fine, even if it is somewhat overworked by doing the work he loves, sometimes grudgingly, to gain what he and his wife both desire.

His meandering book wanders about in various tenses
Richard Gilbert
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A very enjoyable stealth memoir, funny and poignant, while also an interestingly reported foray into the Bible Belt by a doubting English descendant of Darwin. I admire the way Chapman writes honestly about himself even as he skewers others, especially Bible thumpers, but always with a compassionate wink. He both discerns and forgives others' crutches and foibles, having racked up so many disasters himself. He isn't afraid to talk at length with people who are stunningly different from him. Some ...more
Jun 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Chapman describes this work as an accidental memoir. I suppose I'm grateful for that accident and lucky to have found it at a thrift store. A descendant of Charles Darwin and stanch atheist, he travels to Dayton, TN where he originally plans to do research for a book about the Scopes Trial of 1925. Trying not to sound too cliche, but it becomes more of a spiritual journal rather than a work trip. The book is filled with personal stories of lost faith, the challenges of dealing with an alcoholic ...more
Matthew Chapman, Hollywood screenwriter, director (and great great grandson of Charles Darwin) heads to the Bible Belt of Dayton, Tennessee to investigate the annual re-enactment of the Scopes Monkey Trial. Prepared to be amused by the religious bigotry of Fundamentalism, he is instead challenged by the purpose and contentment he finds in some of the believers, forcing him to question the lack of meaning and satisfaction in his own atheism, and changing him to a wistful agnostic. At times laugh ...more
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an interesting book concerning the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" in Dayton TN 1925. The author decides to write a book about the re-enactment of the trial that is performed every year. He wants to see if anything has changed in 75 years. Oh, and the author just happens to be the great great grandson of Charles Darwin. The book is really 3 stories. There is the historic account of the actual trial, the authors interaction with the people of Dayton and a memoir of the authors life. The book ...more
Steve Wiggins
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging account--part confession, part historical sleuthing, part biography. Chapman, a descendent of Charles Darwin, visits Dayton, Tennessee, where the Monkey Trial took place. He comes away with a changed perspective. More comments may be found on my blog: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Dec 17, 2010 rated it liked it
interesting story of classist england, sex drives and the drive for life's meaning.
Andrew Graham
Very funny!
Sep 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yes
Shelves: nonfiction
I love evolution!
Mar 21, 2007 rated it liked it
this book really made me think quite a bit, although it was slightly longer than I think was necessary.. then again maybe I just didn't like how long the author forced me to reflect on these concepts
Mike McDowell
rated it really liked it
Feb 25, 2012
Linda Ethier
rated it really liked it
Jul 28, 2011
Brad Thompson
rated it it was amazing
Oct 11, 2009
Nicholas Carroll
rated it liked it
Sep 01, 2007
rated it liked it
Jan 17, 2008
rated it really liked it
Jul 25, 2011
Samuel E.
rated it really liked it
Feb 23, 2017
rated it liked it
Jan 24, 2009
Lisa Torres
rated it really liked it
Jan 01, 2015
Elizabeth Benson
rated it liked it
Feb 23, 2013
rated it liked it
Nov 29, 2011
rated it it was ok
Jun 02, 2007
rated it really liked it
Mar 21, 2009
rated it it was amazing
Mar 19, 2016
Pamela Rogers
rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2012
rated it really liked it
Feb 12, 2008
James Hengenius
rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2013
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Darwin, His Daughter, and Human Evolution
  • Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came To Be
  • The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State
  • The Mask of Nostradamus
  • Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology
  • Medical Myths That Can Kill You: And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend, and Improve Your Life
  • Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism
  • Here I Stand : My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality
  • Farm: A Year in the Life of an American Farmer
  • The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron
  • Free Radicals
  • Arguing about Slavery: The Great Battle in the United States Congress
  • The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth
  • The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics
  • Dresden: A Survivor's Story
  • The V Book: A Doctor's Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health
  • Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain
  • Maybe Yes, Maybe No

Share This Book