an annotated bibliography of
in starring and cameo roles in the creative arts.

At the beginning of a review of Donald Harington's novel The Cockroaches of Stay More  in The Village Voice , Pegan Kennedy asks: "Sure, there are lots of bunnies in literature--Peter, the White Rabbit, the heroes of Watership Down --but what about roaches?  I mean real roaches, not the Kafka kind.  Real roaches spit, scatter their legs around, get drunk on our stale beer, know what's inside our trashcans.  They're always watching us; they see our secret lives."  In part, although it concerns itself with the Kafkaesque as well as with protagonists and narrators who are realistically presented roaches, this bibliography begins to answer Kennedy's question: "what about roaches?"  Its length suggests that, in fact, though not as frequently evoked as rabbits, roaches are no strangers to the pages of literature worldwide.  They appear as images and symbols and as important details in the back g round, and as characters in human and roach dramas in every imaginable genre, from children's literature, folklore and fable, to poetry, fine and popular, from horror and sci fi flicks to high drama, from comics to fine art--and, of course, in music.  And everywhere they appear, as Kennedy suggests, they are "watching us."  What they see (and tell as they consume our trash) is often disturbing--not what we want to see and hear.

That disturbance draws on the American public's hatred of insects in general and cockroaches in particular (Kellert's survey showed them to be the "least-loved" of all nonhumans), making them candidates for exploitation films ("horror, fantasy, and science fiction" [Mertins 89]) like Mimic and Bug.  They are not infrequently equated with alien extraterrestrials ( Starship Troopers , Men in Black ), invariably perceived as dangerous to humans.  Such films, in turn, add to the public's fear and hatred as do ads for roach-killers of various sorts.

How nonhumans are treated in popular culture is probably more important than their treatment in so-called fine art if one is primarily interested in the formation and directing of attitudes.  It is worth noting that public perception of insects in Japan is quite different from public perception in the United States.  They are seen as "much friendlier and more likeable" and therefore insects in films are more likely to be treated sympathetically as they are in Twilight of the Cockroaches (Reid 47).  Only very recently in a film like Joe's Apartment do we find cockroaches appealing in a film intended for a general American audience.

Literary cockroaches usually empathize and are associated with the weak and downtrodden from Aristophanes' beleaguered farmers in "Peace" (421 B.C.) to the poor, drug-addicted, outlawed and stigmatized whether because of race, ethnic heritage, sex or sexual preference, age or species.  For that reason, Willie Baptist, speaking in the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, used this association to move his constituents to take advantage of a leadership training program especially designed for the powerless: “Let us do as the cockroach and not as the dinosaur,” he advises.  “ The sensitive [survival] instincts of the cockroach must be matched by our own mental capacity to attain scientific truth about our conditions and about the strengths and limitations of…our enemies.”

With amazing regularity, the cockroach represents or symbolizes the plight of those, world wide, most severely stomped on by the dominant, still pa triarchal power structure.  There is even a suggestion that, because of that association, the roach may prove one of the heroes of 21stcentury ecofeminism, dedicated as that movement is to cleaning up the remains of the patriarchy--of all modes of dominance--and establishing healthy, balanced ecosystems for all life forms.  The goal?--making us all as likely to survive as is the ultimate survivor, the roach.

The entries appearing in bold are works in which the cockroach appears as more than symbol or image, allegorical stand-in for humans, or part of a setting which is the background for human drama (Those with a ~ before the artist's name are paintings, etchings, or sculptures).  These works foreground what Kennedy called "real roaches," concerned with their own dramas, for whom humans, our trash and our secret lives, are background detail.    Annotations from secondary sources as well as cameo cockroach appearance in otherwise roach-free works appear in italics (corrections and additions would be welcome!).

Marion W. Copeland


Secondary Sources


Abrahams, Marc and Don Kater.   "Lament del Cockroach"--the Libretto: A mini-opera for Nobel Laureates and mezzo-sopranos.  Sanders Theatre, Harvard University, October 3, 1996 on the occasion of the Sixth First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.  The complete libretto is available on-line at  Photos: Annals of Improbable Research Jan/Feb 1996.  Set in the future when most species have disappeared, the plot focuses on Thelma LaRoach and her friend Louise.  Beset by the advances of males of other insect species, these female cockroaches yearn for a male of their own species.  A meteorite from Mars carrying bacteria deadly to cockroaches (accompanied by music adapted from Wagner) intervenes, killing these last two cockroaches.  The other species, immune, join with the plants--all that now remains on earth (except the bacteria!)--to celebrate (with music from Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus") the extinction of the cockroach.  

Achebe, Chinua.  The Anthills of the Savannah.

Acosta, Oscar Zeda. The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973). New York:
Vintage, 1989. " The cockroach's association with the urban underside, including immigrants and the drug scene, seems as truly international as is the cockroach. It is as clear in The Cockroach Dance (1979) by the Kenyan novelist Meja Mwangi and in The Cockroach Opera (1985) by the Indonesian playwright Norbertus Riantiarno as in The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973), the work of Chicano novelist Oscar Z. Acosta. All these works treat the displacement, alienation, and poverty of outsiders in modern urban life " (Copeland 1993 233).

Aesop. " Aristophanes' cockroach gains resonance from the one Aesopian fable that includes a cockroach character. The dung-beetle or cockroach avenges the killing by an eagle of his friend the hare, who had given the cockroach asylum. First the cockroach destroys the eagle's nest. Then, when the eagle puts his eggs in Zeus's lap, the roach "flies up to Olympus and deposits dung on the god's lap." Zeus leaps up and in the process of brushing off the cockroach droppings destroys the eagle's eggs (Davies 3). Since the eagle is associated with War, it is not difficult to see Aristophanes' scene [in Peace] as a variant of the fable, to associate the weakness of the farmer with the hare, and to see the cockroach in both cases as the means of unearthing the chthonic symbol (Peace, the hare) of life " (Copeland 1993 232).

Alcaraz, Lalo.  La Cucaracha: A Daily Comic Strip.  Syndicated in November 2002 and distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, the strip “is the FIRST political Latino daily comic strip to be nationally syndicated….  Bringing barrio life to its readers, the strip explores issues of ethnicity, biculturalism, youth, immigration and politics with brutally thought provoking satire.”  The strip with its politically radical title character,first appeared in the Los Angeles Weekly in 1998 (    

Algren, Nelson.  The Man With the Golden Arm (1949).  New York: Seven Stories Press, 1997.  "

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Umbrella Man scoop a roach off the bar in a movement surprisingly swift for one so sluggish--and in the same movement jam it between his teeth.  Frankie's hand stopped on the glass: here came Umbrella Man, the bug's blood streaking down teeth and chin and the bug itself crushed--feelers still waving between the teeth--'Man!  Wash!  Gimme wash!'--pleading between the clenched teeth and his smeared face right up to Frankie's.

"Frankie turned his head away, shoved the beer toward Umbrella's and didn't turn his head back till he hear Umbrella drain the glass to the last drop.

" 'He never done anything like that before,' Frankie complained to the widow Wieczorek.  'What's getting into him?'

" 'He does it all the time now,' Widow explained with a certain pride; as if she had taught him such a trick.
"  (quoted in Schweid 4-5)

Schweid comments that the use of the cockroach here is characteristic of Algren's unique mixture of "humor and human horror, the urban novel at its best," calling it a "graveyard humor born of tenements, taverns, and…the low-grade, ongoing schuffle to survive" and points out the uncharacteristic error in detail that  misses that cockroach blood is colorless, "Not the dark liquid implied in Algren's evocative description."  Interestingly the sequence does not appear in "Otto Preminger's watered-down film of the novel" (5-6).

Al-Hakim, Tawfig.  Fate of a Cockroach: Four Plays of Freedom (1973) .
Trans. From the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies.  London: Heinemann,
1973.  Two juxtaposed sets of characters, one human and one cockroach, work out their respective dramas, almost unaware of one another until each drama reaches its climax, in a Cairo apartment.  Since the subtitle of the volume containing the play is  Four Plays of Freedom, there is little doubt that freedom is the play's main theme.  The Introduction by Denys Johnson-Davies claims that "while he has never entered any political arena, he has none the less throughout his career shown himself deeply concerned with such fundamental and potentially dangerous issues as justice and truth, good and evil and, above all, freedom[a theme suggested as well by the title of his autobiography, The Prison of Life]" (vii).  He continues: "In Fate of a Cockroach, man's natural love of freedom, his refusal to despair in the face of adversity, are exemplified in the cockroach's strivings to climb out of the bath" (vii), into which the cockroach King has fallen.  Ironically the humans in the play demonstrate no such survival instinct.  While the husband, who identifies with the hopeless plight of the roach, simply watches the creature struggle, the wife demands its death.  Neither seem capable of compassion or love for either the cockroach or one another.  Ultimately, the Cook draws a bath for the Wife and drowns the Cockroach, removing it from the water with a flick of her fingers.  It immediat ely becomes a prize of the ants who inhabit the apartment although the roach is too large to fit through the crack they use for egress and exit.  Again the humans watch without intervening, the wife muttering, "Having finished with the heroism of cockroaches we've now started on the genius of ants!" (73).  Again the Cook takes matters into her own hands, mopping up the stream of ants.  The Wife then leaves for work ordering her husband to spend his day reorganizing her closets.  The play ends as he remarks to the Cook: "bring the bucket and rag and wipe me out of existence" (76).

Alien Empire. National Geographic. PBS January 1996. 3-part Documentary
"The gist of…the documentary…is the irony that we are surrounded by alien empires yet look for them to swarm in from other universes in UFO's while we go about exterminating the ones that surround us. The panic caused by the idea of killer cockroaches (the stuff of films like Bug and Nest )…exposes how mindless the human horror of real roaches is. It serves, in fact, in much cockroach literature to point out similarly mindless negative steriotypes lethal to what should be less alien nations of humans.
        " Alien Empires faces its viewers not only with the beauties and wonders of the insect world, but with the real probability that they and not humans are the planet's dominant life form and the almost certain likelihood that they, having evolved before us, are better adapted to survive than we ar e" (Copeland 1996 10).

All's Quiet in Sparkle City . “One offering [of May Berenbaum's insect fear festival], an antiwar film from the early 1970s, equates efforts to eradicate cockroaches with genocide” (Angier 118).

An American Tale. Don Bluth. 1986. Amblin Entertainment feature-length animated cartoon (Leskosky 63).

Anthony, Patricia.   Brother Termite (1993). New York: Ace Books, 1995. Though not specifically about cockroaches, the termite is so close a relative that a novel in which they are the major characters is worth pursuing--especially when it is a fast-moving and exciting tale that along the way gives a pretty accurate view of termite society.

Applegate, K. A. Animorphs: The Reunion (1999). New York et al: Scholastic Books, 1999.
In order to save his mother from the Yeerks, the aliens who are in the process of taking over the humans race in the young adult series by Applegate, Marco must "make the ultimate sacrifice," morphing into "'Everyone's favorite houseguest. The wily cockroach'" (32). He and his teenage friends, contemporary descendants of Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, have gained the power to shapeshift from another alien whose people have been destroyed by a Yeerk invasion. He hopes it will help these young heroes defeat the invaders and save the Earth. Here and in other novels in the series where the young heroes find it advantageous to morph into insects, it is clear this is the hardest change to adapt to because the insect is so different from their human selves, making it essential for them to learn to see and think in what for humans seem alien ways.

No insect is better adapted to enter the office building where Marco's mother is than the cockroach: "the roach was the way to go."

Marco narrates: They say that after the big one, total nuclear annihilation, when every other living thing has been turned into a pile of glowing mud, roaches will still be powering over the ruins of civilization.

The amazing indestructible roach. They adapt almost immediately to whatever poison is unleashed on them. And they eat almost anything--books, glue, plants, dead fish, old sneakers. It's almost impossible to destroy them.

I like that about cockroaches. (36)

Not only do Marco, Tobias, and Ax (their alien ally) inhabit cockroach bodies. They acquire as well cockroach brains and instincts. They have to fight the urge to seek cover in dark places when they descend the 23 stories from the roof to the office where Marco had seen his mother: "Floor after floor! Bare escape after bare escape. Skittering, scrabbling, fighting, running…" (43).

When finally they reach the correct floor, they scoot under the fire door, "the steel scraping our backs, and into the hallway" only to be spied by a human who, of course, tries to stomp on them. Only after he gives up and boards the elevator can they scurry "on until we reached what I was sure was the door…. Up along the doorjamb, then across the surface of the door to the base of the window set in the center." Although the roach's vision isn't easy to adjust to, the office appears normal. However, the doorjamb "has an impenetrable seal." Using the air vent for access, "scrambling through scallerings of lint and ash," they discover the office they'd seen is a hologram hiding a Yeerk feeding pool (45-49). Realizing he cannot save his mother because her body is possessed by a Yeerk slug, Marco sadly returns to his normal form (which isn't human either. Since he had failed early in the series to regain his human form in the allotted time, Marco is now permanently a hawk able to communicate and cooperate with his human friends).

Applegate's fiction encourages her readers to question the boundaries that separate species as well as to appreciate and recognize the strengths of every species--even the least-loved cockroach. Alison Lurie notes that “Another great attraction of the Animorph books is that they provide thrilling, scientifically convincing descriptions of what it might be like to be an animal” (“Reading at Escape Velocity.” 51).

archie and mehitabel (1950s) musical ("back-alley opera:" “In the 1950s, Archy's texts were set to music and performed by an all-star cast, which included Carol Channing, John Carradine, and Edie Bracken. Comedian Mel Brooks assisted Joe Darion in writing the script…, which opened off-Broadway…. Two decades later, this musical was reborn as the animated film shinbone alley , directed by John D. Wilson” (Gordon 130).

Arenas, Reinaldo.   The Assault (1990). Trans. From the Cuban by Andrew
Hurley. New York: Penguin, 1994. " Reinaldo Arenas was born in Holguin, Cuba, in 1943, and left for the United States in 1980. The Assault is the final volume of a series of five novels that constitute what he called his "secret history of Cuba." It has been called 'a harrowing, and at the time boldly entertaining, Kafka-esque picture of a dehumanized people living in a world where…a cockroach hunt makes for a national holiday. Narrated by a hate-filled government torturer who has become an agent for the Bureau of Counterwhispering, The Assault follows his travel through a blackly humorous shadowland as he winnows out whisperers, sexual deviants, and dissidents of every sort--until memory has been banished and spoken language has been nearly forgotten' (Cover) " (Copeland appROACHES note 14).

Aristophanes. "Peace" (421 B. C.). " The earliest use of the cockroach (dung beetle) is found in the opening scene of Aristophanes' comedy Peace , first produced in 422 B. C. A number of "Aristophanes' comedies include animal choruses" and animals and insects figure in Greek Old Comedy, generally as chorus, but the opening of Peace is, according to Davies and Kathirithamby…, the only cockroach "scene composed in Greek (or indeed in any nation's) drama" (11). Actually that probably held true until the Egyptian Al Hakim's The Fate of a Cockroach , the Polish Glowacki's Hunting Cockroaches , and the Indonesian Riantiarno's The Cockroach Opera in the twentieth-century.

        "The human hero of Peace is not a god or demi-god but the farmer Tygaeus, determined to save the country from the ravages of the Peloponnesian War. To do so he must scale Olympus and unearth the goddess Peace from the pit in which War had buried her. The essential clue is in Tygaeus' mode of ascent: he "flies up to Zeus' palace" on the back of a man-sized cockroach he has brought home from Mt. Etna (Davies 11). According to Davies Etna had been famed "from the first third of the 5th century onwards" for its enormous cockroaches. Cockroaches became, in fact, symbols of the volcano (Davies 86-87), suggesting that the creature had long been associated with the Earth's inner and often violent powers, an association explored in the contemporary novel The Hephestus Plague by Thomas Page [and in the movie, Bug, based on Page's horror novel]. Most often in satyr plays and in Attic comedy in general, it is the roach's love of dung that occassions laughter, but the roach's role in Peace is relatively serious. Often indifferent even to the fates of major human characters in his plays Aristophanes "is careful to tell us of the beetle's happy fate: like Pegasus he will carry the thunderbolts of Zeus (l. 722) and, thanks to Ganymede, a steady supply of food (ll. 723ff) is assured" him (Davies 12)"
(Copeland 1993 232).

Atkinson, Laura. La Cucaracha; The Little Clay Cockroach (1968) .
Albuquerque, NM: Old Town School, 1968.

Atxaga, Bernardo.  Obabakoak.  Trans from the Basque by Margaret Jill Costa.
        New York: Pantheon, 1992.  "Hunting has always seemed to me a cruel pastime and my habit of giving names to animals--something I've done ever since I was a child--prevents me from ever doing any harm to any creature, however repellent.  Imagine, for example, that you have a cockroach living in your house and one day it occurs to you to christen that cockroach Jose Maria, and then it's Jose Maria this and Jose Maria that, and very soon the creature becomes a sort of small black person who may turn out to be timid or irritable or even a little conceited.  And obviously in that situation you wouldn't dream of putting poison around the house.  Well, you might consider it as an option but no more often than you would for any other friend."  (quoted in Schweid 156-157)

“The Autobiography of Alexander Fever” an anonymous on-line story in process.  The narrator, whose work was discovered on a micro-chip in New York City,is a cockroach: “The idea that a mere insect could be the author of such a work has been widely debated in both literary and scientific circles”  

Avalos, Cecilia.  La Cucaracha Correlona/The Cockroach from Redona.  Trans.
By Scholastic Inc., 1992.



Bad Mojo.1996 Pulse Entertainment CD-Rom. An adult adventure game that "takes you in a new direction entirely--into the grungy, vibrant, and dangerous world of a cockroach….the hero's predicament here recalls Gregor Samsa's transformation into a giant beetle in Franz Kafka's story 'The Metamorphosis.' The resemblance doesn't seem to be accidental: the main character here is the almost-anagrammatic Roger Samms" (CNET review 7/7/96). Samms lives "in Eddie's Bar, a waterfront dive. But you [he is] are a special roach, endowed with human cunning. Objective: survival, transformation--and lunch," wrote James Leileks, a staffer for Newhouse News Service in the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1996. One should add that Samms was once a human scientist who developed pesticides. An ancient Mexican locket transforms him into a cockroach and, as the game unwinds, Samms faces death by means of his own inventions. He is further transformed as roaches he encounters during "the game" attempt to help him survive. Lileks concludes his review by mentioning that the game "tells a story in a way no one has tried since Kafka [OH, YEAH?!], and does it with wit and skill. It's not for those with a hair-trigger gorge. And be warned that after five minutes of play, you will begin to feel sympathy with cockroaches. After 10 minutes you're thinking like one."

Ballentine, Bill.  Nobody Loves a Cockroach.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1968.

Bailey, Dale.  "Cockroach."  Fantasy & Science Fiction95(December 1998): 38ff.

Baille, Allan.  "Taste of Cockroach" (1973).  Taste of Cockroach and Other
Stories.  Ed. John Griffin and Warwick Goodenough.  Australian
Association for the Te aching of English, 1974.  7-13.  Baille, a journalist and writer, moved to Melbourne from Scotland in 1950 when he was seven.  He has since traveled and worked in Britain, Europe, Southern Asia and Central America; and since the early seventies has worked in Sydney.  He has won several prizes for his short stories and has published a novel set in Laos (1974).
In a short story, “The Taste of Cockroach,” the Australian Alllan Baillie, whose assignments as a journalist have taken him to Southern Asia, narrates an exchange between two colonials in Laos in 1973 that introduces another universal role: the cockroach as food.  The American traveler embraces the culture, urging his reluctant French companion to try “a cooked and curried [cockroach] crescent.” When the Frenchman recoils, the American argues, “'But the Lao eat them like sweets….Have you ever tasted cockroach?'”  The American's naiveté is revealed when the other man explains that during the war he was isolated and starving in Laos, and survived by eating anything, even the abundant indigenous cockroaches.

Barr, Nevada. Hunting Season (2002).  Barr's National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon recalls having acted, twenty years earlier in New York City, in “ a ramshackle, roach-infested theater near the Port Authority Bus Terminal” (148).  Later in the novel, the wife of one of the locals implicated in the murder Anna will solve, comes out of the rain complaining “'I must look like a drowned rat ….Can't keep big hair dry on a day like this.  Mine must be flat as a squashed cockroach…'” (177).

Barthelme, Donald.  “Cortez and Montezuma.” Notebook.

~Baskin, Leonard.  “Cockroach.” Woodcut.  Diptera: A Book of Flies and Other Insects.  Northampton, Massachusetts: Gehenna Press, 1983.  30 copies printed.  In an interview with Lisa Baskin, the artist's widow (Feb. 15, 2002), in their home in Leeds, Massachusetts, I was able to view the studies that preceded the selection of the final image used in the book.  Baskin, who founded the Gehenna Press, printed the original run hi mself.  It typifies his many insect studies, quite distinct from the images of humans that have created his reputation among critics and art historians.  The insects are strong yet delicate, detailed and accurate, viewed with appreciation and wonder, wher eas his humans strike the viewer as “corrupt,” “bloated,” and viewed with “sardonic humor” (Columbia Encyclopedia; The Oxford Dictionary of Art describes his humans as “injured and brutalized,” “alone, naked, and defenseless”).  While the themes of Baskin's human studies may be “dominated by…death and spiritual decay” which explode any remaining delusions of optimism and progress” (Oxford), his insect and animal images (many done in collaboration with Ted Hughes' insect and animal poems) speak for the contin uity and dependable processes of nature.  If his human “figures [often have] a superficial likeness to anatomical charts,” essentially flayed by the artist's vision, his animals and insects are lifelike and full of living.   A softer image of the cockroach, done earlier to illustrate his first wife, Esther Baskin's Creatures of Darkness (Boston: Little, Brown, 1962), may be seen on The New York Public Library's website:  ( <>). That he meant these images to be positive and instructive to human viewers is clear in the epigraph he chose for Horned Beetles and Other Insects (Gehenna Press, 1958):
If we could imagine the male Chalcosoma [horned beetle] , with its polished bronze coat of mail and its vast horns, magnified to the size of a horse of even of a dog, it would be one of the most imposing animals in the world. - Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man .

Baum, Frank. In the Oz books "Academic authority is represented by Mr. H. M. Woogle-Bug, T. E., a huge beetle (possibly a cockroach to judge by the illustrations). His initials stand for Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated. The Woogle-Bug became trapped under a microscope in a classroom and grew to human size; before his escape, he absorbed a great deal of knowledge. Like some professors he is extremely vain of his learning and makes terrible puns. Presently the Woogle-Bug founds a College of Athletics where students get instant education by taking pills, and can thus devote all their time to sports" (Lurie “Oddness“22).

The Beetle . 1919 silent film directed by Alexander Butler. See entry for Marsh,
Richard. The Beetle (1897).

Bejan, Nancy N.  Aunt Cockroach.  Monterey, CA: Monterey Pacific, 1998.

Belpre, Pura.  Perez y Martina: A Puerto Rican Folktale.  Ill. by Carlos Sanchez.
New York: Penguin, 1991.  Juvenile fiction.

Bersen, Dolores.  The Adventures of Clyde Cockroach.  DUB Publishing,
        1994.  Preschool.

Bingo Crosbiana 1936 Cal Dalton and Sander Wacker.  Warner Bros. animated
Cartoon (Leskosky 60).

Billy Bob the Texas Cowboy Cockroach.  A popular pin that can be purchased

Bird, Isabella L.  Six Months Among the Palm Groves, Coral Reefs and Volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands (1890).  Used as a source for cockroach voyage encounters in Dan Simmons's novel Fires of Eden (1994).
Blair, Al.  Cockroach Crawl.  Northcountry Publishing, 1990.

"The Blue Cockroach" (1921).  Cf. Herron-Allen.

Boniface, William.  Mystery in Bugtown (1997).  Ill. Jim Harris.  Denver, CO:
        Accord, 1998. Juvenile fiction.  In a tale that claims equal justice for all, the cockroach, an unpopular and disreputable member of the community is the victim of an attempted murder.  The pe rpetrator is hunted down and brought to justice with as much zeal as if the victim were a venerated citizen, offering young readers a good lesson in democratic citizenry.  Much of the charm of the book lies in its illustrations, especially in the animated rolly-polly eyes of the attempted murder victim which have to be seen to be appreciated.

~Boscarino, Richard. "…the artist who created the medium [and the name] of Roachart. He poses dead cockroaches in lifelike backdrops equipped with tiny props (among his tableaux are a beauty parlor, a sales counter at Bloomingdale's, a public restroom, a bowling alley, a diner, and a reenacted Last Supper, among others). These little dioramas sell for between $500 and $900 and have inspired a line of greeting cards. He buys most of his cockroaches already dead from a biological supply company rather than collect them himself. He also makes traditional jewelry and regards roachart as just a sideline. Among other things, it is labor intensive--his diner diorama required 100 hours to create. Boscarino once aspired to become an entomologist but a summer job at Princeton University pinning specimens convinced him that it was not the profession for him " (Berenbaum 340).

Breathed, Burke. The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos . Boston: Little,
Brown, 1989. Cartoon strip " Breathed's cockroach Milquetoast is a crucial member of the communities of both Bloom County and Outland . Breathed responded to an interview question about Binkley becoming so empathetic toward other life forms that he not only becomes a vegetarian but ends up hanging from trees to avoid stepping on bugs:

He was asking the same kind of questions I was asking [Breathed ex-
plained]. Why is the life of an elephant any more precious that the life
of a cockroach? And by what means do you measure such things: in-
telligence? size? At the time, I saw no alternative but to be a purist--
thinking that if you're going to play the game at all, you've got to go all
the way. (Pacelle 11)

The cover of the issue of The Animals' Agenda in which the interview appears demonstrates Breathed's commitment to cockroach rights: Opus, wearing a sweatshirt reading "Save the Whales," is surrounded by Milquetoast lookalikes brandishing signs that read "Roach Rights," "Hug a Bug," "Stamp Out Squashing," and "Cockroaches Never have a Nice Day" while Milquetoast himself, fists [ah, make that tarsal segments] clenched, brandishes a "Don't Tred on Me" sign on his hat. Similar themes recur in almost every strip in which Milquetoast appears
." (Copeland Voice 235)

________.  Politically, Fashionably, and Aerodynamically Incorrect: The
        First   Outland Collection.  Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. Cartoon strip.

Breytenbach, Breyten. Johnny Cockroach (A Lament for Our Times) . South African play first presented at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in June 1999. One reviewer notes that the play " captures some of the century's complexities through the use of a wide range of theatrical disciplines. Combining song, dance, physical theatre and music--orchestral and alternative Afrikaner rock--the dreamers and revolutionaries get one more chance to justify their actions before the birth of the new millennium….before a 'Bench' of three women who are the wives, mothers, sisters and lovers of all those who changed the world and created a 'new man.' The drama takes place in the tortured, ironic presence of Johnny Cockroach, the oldest form of life and one that will outlive us all " ("A Collage of Meaning in Johnny Cockroach" -- link not working
Another reviewer explains that " The argument is based on the troubles that tore Africa apart, " although it extends as well " to Kosovo,…World War Two's holocaust, and other such horrific moments in history ," confronting " issues that have been swept under the carpet and forgotten for the sake of reconciliation, but still burn deep in the hearts of some. " She finds the play uncomfortable but points out that " it maintains an aspect of beauty …."
        " While observing the action on stage, Johnny Cockroach --who exists in both male and female form--is also subject to an internal struggle to separate the male and the female aspects in the hope of death. The power of life and death can only be granted by 'the Voice', and she relentlessly withholds [it] from the cockroach--'sometimes one is deprived even of the consolation of death', says Johnny ." (Pearman)

Bug . Jeannot Szwarc. Fox 1975 (based on Thomas Page's The Haephestus
). " The city of Riverside is threatened with destruction after a massive earth tremor unleashes a super-race of 10-inch mega-cockroaches that belch fire, eat raw meat, and are virtually impervious to Raid. Produced by gimmick-loving William Castle, who wanted to install wind-shield-wiper-like devic, under theatre seats that would brush against the patrons' feet as the cockroaches crawled across the screen; unfortunately, the idea was squashed flat " ( VideoHound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics 58).
Mertins comes much closer to the truth about this film, calling it an important film, featuring "large, intelligent cockroaches" and including it on his list of films in which arthropods--here roaches--are of "significant importance" and are presented "with positive or at least neutral, realistic images" (87). Indeed they become the film's main and most interesting protagonists--uncannily so. Mechling's description is also misleading as he sees the cockroaches representing "something evil,…neither religion or science…[a] threat from the bowels of the earth" (131). Instead, as in Page's novel, the insects are merely natural beings misplaced by the earthquake and attempting to survive. It is the scientist who is the evil force, perpetuating the lives of creatures who would otherwise have succumbed to an alien environment. He is, ultimately, consumed by his own meddling with nature.

Bug Vaudeville.  1921.  Windsor McKay  animated cartoon (Leskosky 60).

Bunting, Eve.  We Were There: A Nativity Story.
        A snake, scorpion, toad, bat, cockroach, spider, and rat tell how they witnessed the birth of the Christ Child.  Preschool-grade 3.

~Burke, Mary.  “Seat of Knowledge.”  2000.  The Shimer College submission to Chicago's outdoor furniture exhibit, Burke's piece is painted on an actual chair and ottoman which are enhanced with the artist's “naturalistic imagery of fruit and leaves” as well as with more “scholarly references.”  These include allusions to “authors in the Shimer curriculum.” One of these, “referring to Franz Kafka's famous cockroach of The Metamorphosis,” provided the artist with her first experience of “painting a cockroach!” Burke, who exhibits widely, is an adjunct member of the Shimer faculty. (

Burroughs, William.  Exterminator.  New York: Penguin, 1979.  The titular story introduces William Lee who works for A. J. Cohen Exterminators.  His customers are reluctant to admit to their roach problems: Mrs. Murphy claims hers come up "'from those Jews downstairs'" before ac knowledging "'Sure and an Irish cockroach is as bad as another.'"  She's convinced the white powder used by the city exterminators "'draws roaches the way whisky draws a priest.'"  Using pyrethrum, Lee blows "the precious yellow powder" into "a brown crac k by the kitchen sink."  In short order cockroaches "stream" on stage "as if they had heard the last trumpet… and flop in convulsions on the floor."  Their agony delights Mrs. Murphy who prevents Lee from delivering "the coup de grace."  After relishing in t heir deaths, she "sweeps up a dustpanful" to throw "into the wood stove" and then heats water to make Lee a cup of tea.

________. Naked Lunch (1959).  New York: Grove Press, 1966.  Novel.

Byler, Stephen Raleigh. “Roaches.” Searching for Intruders: A Novel in Stories .
        New York: William Morrow, 2001.
“The first five full-length stories…(each is bracketed by a shorter, related vignette) are so confident and ruefully funny that you'll put your doubts in your hat for a while. Byler's laconic narrator is Wilson Hues, a decent if luckless guy from Reading, Pa…. The emotional core of these five stories is Wilson's tangled relationship with Melody Henderson…. These stories skip around in time, and we meet Melody as Wilson's college girlfriend, his wife and his ex-wife. Bound together, they'd make a fine little book: the Melody stories.
        “Among the best of these Melody stories are 'Roaches' and 'Beauty Queen.' In the first Wilson and Melody are crammed unhappily into a two-room apartment in Manhattan, and they both know that their four-year marriage is coming to an end. They're tired and broke and have come to hate the city; the roaches that have infested their apartment come to feel like a physical manifestation of their emotional state. They both feel unambiguously dirty . Byler's take on a marriage in extremis is subtle and expert; so is his grasp of the skittery details. When Wilson flips on the kitchen light late one night, hundreads of roaches scatter, yet some don't: 'One monster had its face buried in a maki roll I had bought from the sushi place up the street. It had its legs braced behind it trying to get deeper in.'” (Garner 6)



Campbell, Alice.  ;The Cockroach Sings (1946).  London: Collins "Crime Club
Detective Story," 1946.

Cannon, Janelle.  Crickwing (2000). San Diego, New York, and London:

You might remember STELLALUNA and VERDI from Chinaberry catalogs past. Janelle Cannon, their author and illustrator, makes a habit of choosing creatures that normally get a bad rep (in the case of the aforementioned, they were a fruit bat and a python) and then creating a juicy and engaging story featuring them as the main characters. Each of these books was acclaimed…. The underdog quality of the characters, combined with Cannon's truly beautiful illustrations, added up to books that kids just eat up.

"So, with CRICKWING Jannell Cannon has outdone herself by choosing the underdog of all underdogs, because Crickwing is a cockroach with a crooked wing. (Talk about creatures with bad reps! But thank heavens he lives below the forest canopy instead of in someone's kitchen.) This is a story about cockroach-as-artist with a flair for sculpture. And as it turns out, animals in the forest just won't stop picking on him. Now, as is commonly the case when someone is picked on, that someone often turns to those smaller--and starts picking on them. In this case, Crickwing turns to leaf-cutter ants who are eventually…threatened by ferocious army ants,"
offering Crickwing a chance to save the day. What isn't emphasized here is that this is the only work I discovered that has a tropical cockroach protagonist rather than one of the domestic species who do share our kitchens. Anna Castillo's short story, however, alludes to beautiful rain forest roaches like Crickwing (Chinaberry Catalog). A fine review, "Crickwing: A Cockroach Transformed," by Robin Michelle is available on-line:

Crickwing makes an interesting companion piece for Roberto, the Insect Architect , since termites like Roberto are closely related to cockroaches. They share a symbiotic adaptation that allows each species to digest the wood they eat.

Capitol Critters.  “[A] short-lived TV series starring roaches, sewer rats, and other unwanted animal inhabitants of the White House” (Gordon 124). Perhaps it's time for reissuing? Excellent web site.

Caraher, Kim.  The Cockroach Cup.
        Everyone is looking for a top cockroach who can win the Cockroach Cup.  When Cool scuttles out into the torchlight it seems that he-or she-is obviously a champion.  Cup day brings lots of surprises.

Cardwell, Carolyn, ed.  ODES to a Cockroach, Vol. I.  Hieroglyphics Press, 1984.

_________. ODES to a Cockroach, Vol. II.  Hieroglyphics Press, 1985.

Carter, Vincent.  "A Cockroach Named Biko" (1996).  On-line story ( -- unable to locate

Castillo, Ana.  "Christmas Story of the Golden Cockroach."  A Gathering of
Flowers: Stories About Being Young in America.
 New York: Harper
Keypoint, 1990.  "I suspect Castillo's story was inspired at least in part by Poe's 'The Gold Bug,'  'Poe's only effort to use an existing folk legend in his own fiction' (D aniel Hoffmann, Poe [Anchor, 1972], 122).  A golden beetle seems to be mistaken by the story's protagonist, Legrand, for real gold, and does in fact lead him to the buried treasure of Captain Kidd on the South Carolina coast.  Castillo's plot suggests suc h treasures are, for Mexican-Americans, more memories of the rain forests of their native land [where golden cockroaches do exist] than promises from their adopted one" (Copeland appROACHES note 17).
The first time the young mother who narrates the story sees a golden cockroach, she associates it with her gold wedding band….the golden roach…[had originally been] discovered in the jungle and surviv[es] on a diet of maize. …maize…, particularly among the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest and Mexico, [is] associated with female principles of procreation and growth which evolve from the …archaic chthonic powers. She refers to the roach as a 'mini-king in some ancient, sacred ritual.'
“But perhaps most important is the cockroach's source-the jungle, the rainforest where the chthonic powers still reign/rain. Urban cockroaches, as fascinating-beautiful-successful as they are, are only a dim reflection of their thousands of wild kin. One in twenty thousand, Castillo's narrator discovers, is gold. And, of course, the gold specimens are valued [in a capitalist society] only for the money they bring from the pawnbroker….”
(Copeland 1993 239)
Although not connected with this story, "The Golden Cockroach," a figure that appears in a vision recorded in Marcia Lauck's At the Pool of Wonder: Dreams and Visions of an Awakening Humanity, are relevant: "'At our feet, in the center of this sacred circle is a shimmering golden roach….  This is a good omen for the future.  The insect, seemingly lit from within, gro ws in luminosity and size until it becomes the dream.  As I come back to waking, I feel it at the shoreline of human consciousness, embedded in the archetypal ground.'"  Joanne Lauck explains that "The pairing of gold, that enduring essence that symbolizes the soul, with the ancient insect that has both preceded and accompanied us on our evolutionary journey signifies that some great work is underway--a deep reconciliation and healing called forth from the primordial wisdom that is held in the heart of cre ation…..Myths the world over teach that the seed of renewal is always to be found in something humble, in what has been despised and rejected.  What quality, what energies does the golden cockroach bring to a world that no longer knows its true name?"  (309-310).  These two observations show how the story may respond from an ecofeminist reading.

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay . New York:
        Random House, 2000. “In 1939 the American comic book, like the beavers and cockroaches of prehistory, were larger and, in its cumbersome way, more splendid than its modern descendant” (74). Instead of an imaginary friend, Kavalier's son Tommy creates a super-hero alter-ego, the Bug (503,509, 516, 625).
The Bug was the name of his costumed crime fighting alter ego, who had appeared one morning when Tommy was in first grade, and whose adventures and increasingly involved mythology he had privately been chronicling in his mind ever since. He had drawn several thick volumes' worth of Bug stories, although his artistic ability was incommensurate with the vivid scope of his mental imagery….The Bug was a bug, an actual insect-a scarab beetle, in his current version-who had been caught, along with a human baby, in the blast from an atomic explosion. Somehow-Tommy was vague on this point-their natures had been mingled, and now the beetle's mind and spirit, armed with his beetle hardness and proportionate beetle strength, inhabited the 4-foot-high body of a human boy who sat in the third row of Mr. Landauer's class, under a bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Sometimes he could avail himself, again rather vaguely, of the characteristic abilities-flight, stinging, silk-spinning-of other varieties of bug. (503)
Though the Bug isn't specifically a cockroach, the rich and suggestive context of the novel suggests the influence of Kafka's Metamorphosis (Kafka's insect isn't clearly a cockroach either, after all). Related themes and Kavalier's genesis in Prague support the allusion. Yet Chabon does little with either the allusion or Tommy's Bug-self. This is particularly puzzling because so much of the later part of the novel deals with the impact of comic books on kids. One wonders if Tommy and Bug are being saved for a sequel?

~Chalmers, Catherine.  “Infestation,” Roaches (1997-1999).  “ Chalmers reputation was largely made by Food Chain (1994-96),…a series of photographs…using insects, arachnids, and reptiles…to represent what happens in nature.”  In 1997, the photographer started
Concentrating on cockroaches, which she buys in bulk and cages in her apartment… .  The science-experiment air of the earlier work is replaced by a goofily contextual setting: a doll house.  The common domestic cockroach no longer exists in nature, according to Chalmers.  Its habitat is the city….Roaches play  on our fears of the disgusting brown bugs.  Looking larger than life in their miniature settings, the roaches make themselves comfortable in a stand-in for our own homes.  (Frederickson)

________.  “Imposters.”  Roaches (1997-1999).  Chalmers' second roach series places the roaches “ in an unnatural setting for them: flowers.  Painting and flocking her roaches to look like ladybugs and other benign-seeming insects, Chalmers tries to warm our hearts to the creatures.”  Frederickson finds this “cute work,” but feels it “ lacks the strange mix of horror and banality that informs her earlier, nastier stuff.”  However, a press release counters that these “highly colour-saturated…nature” photographs probe our phobic reactions to roaches, a pr obe driven still deeper by Chalmers third roach series.

________.  “Executions.” Roaches (1997-1999).  This third series “shows stark, black and white images of roaches, drowned, hanged, burnt and electrocuted” ( - link no longer working)  As Isle observes, “All the various ways… we humans are fond of executing one another.”  Although, as English art critic Will Cohu noted, Chalmers' “'starting point seems to be humor and compassion… and that sets her apart from the pig-in-blue-formaldehyde school of conceptual artists,'” she does chill the roaches she then decorates and poses.  Chalmers explains, “ 'Roaches is more about specific feelings that we have toward certain types of animals-the aggression and violence and fear.  We kill one, we kill twenty, we kill a hundred, but we never get them under control.'”  Isle  feels that it is about “Control.  We like to have nature under control.”  Her exposure of that drive and of the “'unhing[ing] from the natural world'” and our “'desire to be out of the food chain'” that fuels it is what finally labels Chalmers as an ecofeminist “(Isle 4).

________.  “Hello, Columbus.”  The New York Times Magazine
        19 September 1999:87.  “When Christopher Columbus made landfall…he set in motion a vast ecological transformation….These art works… depict one of the shock troops of the European invasion, the cockroach, fastening upon the bounty of the New World, represented by the tomato.  The insect shown in these photographs, painted with the image that festooned Columbus's sails, did so well in its new home that it is now called the American cockroach.”  It is significant that Christianity Today Magazine ( ) felt it necessary to comment on this “revisionist history.”  
Three smallish photographs form a vertical series on the page.  In the first, several cockroaches are clambering on and around a tomato.  In the second frame, the insides of the tomato have been exposed bit by bit by the busy cockroaches.  In the third frame, much of the tomato is gone, and what remains is a mushy pulp swarming with cockroaches.  Turn the page, thinking perhaps to find another work of art, and you encounter a striking two-page spread-the centerfold of this whole issue, as it were-showing the ravaged tomato and the voracious roaches in extreme close-up.  Oh yes, and one more detail: the cockroaches are painted white with red crosses (as in the Cross, the sign of Jesus) on their backs.
The article, entitled “Cockroaches for Jesus,” ends: “History such as the New York Times Magazine 's millennium special purveys cartoon history, as simplistic and self-righteous…as the jingoistic stuff that many of us were raised with….  Resist it.  Reject it.  Make fun of it.  And will somebody please bring the Raid. ”  I'd say Chalmers' satire, as pointed as is much satiric cockroach literature, has hit its mark!

 Chast, Roz.  "Gregor's Further Adventures."  Parallel Universes: an
Assortment of Cartoons.
New York: Harper & Row, 1984.  Cartoon which, like Smiley's "My Life as a Bug," emphasizes how Gregor's life improves once he is out of the family apartment and free of the family.

Chong, Benildas.  "Last Yamse."  Tales of the Living, Tales of the Dead.
Singapore: Landmark Books, 1990.  Short story.

Christopher, Itah Sadie.  Ill. Roy Condy.  Please Clean Up Your Room.  Buffalo,
New York: Firefly Books, 1996.

Chung, Frances.  Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple: Poems.  Hanover, NH:
Wesleyan University/UP of New England, 2001.  "'Yo vivo en el barrio Chino,' Frances Chung announces in the opening line of her posthumous (and first) collection….Chung, who grew up on the border between New York City's Chinatown and Little Italy, died in 1990 at the age of 40, leaving behind assorted manuscripts….This collection's editor, Walter K. Lew, has done an admirable job of drawing them together….This is a world of 'shrimp gray days' in which Chung asks, 'Where is the cockroach who left/ its footprint on my bowl? ' Chung owes much to William Carlos Williams; many of her poems are compact and oddly moving narratives that give voice to those who are between cultures " (Hainey), exactly those voices most frequently accompanied by the cockroach voice or presence in literature.

Cisneros, Sandra.  Bien Pretty.  In this novel, Flavio Munguin is an exterminator who “represents the indigenous creativity and cultural authenticity of the barrio.” Hired by Lupe, who is attracted by the sign on the side of Flavio's truck (La Cucaracha apachurrada-the squished cockroach), he becomes the model for her paintings of the barrio and its people (Mullen).

Cockroach.  EPIC/SONY Records: Bruno Rave and Steve West.

"Cockroach" an on-line anonymous poem with a cockroach speaker:

I know I'm a cockroach
It's what I was born
I might have preferred
To be piglet or faun

But exactly like you
wasn't given a voice
had to be what I am
without vestige of choice

It's not really me
to be people's pet hate
to spend my days dodging
the boot and the bait

So reach for the Bayson
but think on it too
what if you'd been a cockroach
and I had been you?

Note: at web publication, the author's name was found to be Norah Boehme.

Cockroach Candies.  A German punk rock group( - link no longer working)

Cockroach Hotel.  An Independent Film Production.  Director, Nicholas von
Sternberg.  In this horror film, "four teenagers…are joyriding… when an empty tank of gas brings them to a delapidated hotel….Forced to stay for the night, Barbara's nightmare begins.  The lonely, eccentric proprietor has a severe bug problem--and no one can call out--all the phone lines are down!
…Set in 1958 rural Texas, it weaves all the nostalgia of the ever-popular '50ies era with the creepy-crawly chills of the horror movie genre" ( - link no longer working)

Cockroach Party! Folktales to Sing, Dance & Act Out.  58 minutes.  Bellingham,
WA: Live Music Recordings, 1999.  Stories recorded include “Cockroach Party,” “ Grandfather Bear is Hungry,” “Elk and Wren,” “Ms. Cricket Looks for a Husband,” “Ms. Cricket Gets Married,” “Pickin' Peas,” and “The Teeny Weeny Bop.” (

Cockroach Run.  An internet game.

The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati.  1981. Directed by Michael McNamara.  Inspired by a novelty song of the same name recorded by Rose and the Arrangement in 1974.  The “song describes a fictitious cockroach movie monster through the eyes of a self-confessed horror film junkie” (Gordon 131).  The film is about drugs, rebellion, and the search for integrity with obvious ties to
Burroughs and films based on his novels although the direct source is Alan Williams' The Cockroach Trilogy.  "Based on Alan Williams's innovative theatre pieces, The Cockroach Trilogy, Michael McNamara's directorial debut, is an ultra-strange examination of one man's meditations on life and the universe as he descends into madness… .Williams plays 'The Captain,' a character that a bland, middle-class filmaking team happen upon and decide to make a film about" (Hays).  The film was nominated for two Genie Awards and a limited edition video-digital quality is available ( - link no longer working).

Cockroach! An EZINE for Poor and Working Class People.  Edited by Robert

Cocky Cockroach. Paul Terry.  1932.  Terrrytoons animated cartoon (Leskosky
60).  “boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl plot (this time to a spider)” (Gordon

Cole, Joanna.  Cockroaches.  An early novel by the prolific author of The Magic Schoolbus series.

Colingoh.  Living in Singapore and working as a cartoonist since 1988, Coligoh draws cockroaches because “they work…at a really great satirical level-sharp, symbolic and simple.”  Nevertheless, his editors at Singapore's The New Paper have limited the number of his cockroach strips.  In a cartoon about this censorship, one of his cockroaches questions why they would do that.  The other responds that it must be because “there was a bland sameness to our appearance,” to which the first responds, “Like I said, we cockroaches are deeply symbolic…” (   

Communications from a Cockroach:archy and the underside (2001)-an original 75 minute puppetry adaptation of Don Marquis's Archy and Mehitabel, adapted and directed by Ralph Lee, and presented first in the parks of New York City, June-Sept, 2001, by the Mettawee River Theatre Company and The Shakespeare Project.  A performance was included in The New World Theatre [Amherst, Massachustts] annual KO Festival 15 July 2001 (on the lawn of the Amherst Colle ge Observatory.

Company, Flavia.  Not You, Not I, Not Anyone. [Barcelona: ediciones 62, 1998].
Translated from the Catalan by Richard Sweid and Flavia Company.
I with a hand.  They had a hard shell, shiny and slippery.  E. wanted to put them in her mouth and squeeze them between her tongue and her palate until they let go of that white juice that comes out when they are squashed.  She didn't do it because, in that moment, she didn't want to be left without a cockroach.
A.:  "Yes, I'll ask D. to make them take their clothes off and… "--in that precise moment of thinking of his wife and her lover without clothes, A.'s cockroaches, which had begun to enthusiastically go up and down inside E., suddenly went back to the eyes and heart of A. without any warning.
E.:  "What happened to you?  What Happened?"--disappointment, she knew that now neither the tongue nor the palate would serve for anything.
A.:  "Is it really so important now?" he answered, impatiently.  He was there without clothes on as if he were in front of the doctors who had examined him in the military.
(quoted in Schweid 56, 59-60)

Conant, Susan.  Ruffly Speaking.  New York: Bantam, 1994.  An episode in this volume of the popular dog mystery series recounts the use of the cockroach in a summer program for troubled youth:
        "Ivan's latest prank in the program, though one Leah told me about in the car, involved Matthew himself.  As I've mentioned, Matthew was teaching a course--or maybe a seminar, workshop, or module--about urban flora and faun a, and one of the fauna had, indeed, turned out to be a cockroach, which, as Matthew had explained to me, was a zoologically fascinating insect of ancient and noble lineage.  The topic put Matthew in an unusually talkative mood, and he became outright ani m ated as he went on about it.  I wasn't very responsive, but Steve, who was there, too, caught Matthew's contagious enthusiasm, and the two had a long, technical discussion about evolution and adaptation that almost sent me rushing to call an exterminator.
        "Steve commented afterward on what a bright kid Matthew was.  I had to agree but couldn't resist adding that as companion animals Border Collies were a few million evolutionary steps ahead of roaches, and how would Steve like it if his clients started sho wing up with little portable kennels crawling with vermin for him to spay and neuter?  Steve said that he, like every other veterinarian, would be happy to find a new area into which he could expand his practice, and he claimed to welcome the challenge of mastering microsurgical techniques.  Further more, Steve said, neutering roaches couldn't be any worse than de-scenting skunks.
        "But back to Matthew.  The Avon School Summer Program followed a hands-on, learn-by-doing approach.  Consequently, instead of just reading about roaches and listening to Matthew lecture about them, his students watched them in the flesh, if  flesh is the right word for what insects have.  In the shell.  In the shell surrounding some revolting mess of squishy, roachy slime.  Whateve r.  The point is that Matthew's roaches lived in some sort of dry aquarium in the AHSP science lab, or they did until Ivan liberated them.
" (98-99)

"'…he had this great explanation about how they'd been studying the cockroach's beautiful adaptation to varied natural environments--they don't have to keep evolving, basically, because they're perfectly adapted now--but how were you supposed to observe it when the roaches were trapped in a glass box?'
        "'The director said that?'
        "'Not really.  Matthew made Ivan sit down and work out how fast roaches reproduce so Ivan would understand the quote significance of his act unquote, and the director kept wringing his hands and wondering about whether to spray now or wait and see what happened….'
" (100)

Coonskin.  1975 animated cartoon by Mark Kausler featuring Malcolm the Cockroach, “an endearing chap” inspired by the cockroaches in George Harriman's Krazy Kat (Gordon 122).

Corn, Alfred. “Water: City Wildlife and Greenery.”  In Laure-Anne Bosselaar, ed.
Urban Nature: Poems About Wildlife in the City.  Minneapolis: Milkweed
Editions, 2000: 30-31.
        The pests include large foraging rats,
A population of roaches always on the point
Of doubling into infinity, any number
Of mice, and, in summer, plagues of flies,
Plus a number of mosquitoes.
There's a special problem of strays-
Ribby dogs and cats that ran wild
And live out the fate of any creature
Abandoned to the streets-cold, damp,
Hunger, begging, violence, early death.
Spring gives some relief to this sad business.

Cornwall, Patricia D.  Cruel & Unusual: A Novel.  New York: Charles Scribner's,
1993.  Two quotes from the popular mystery writer suggest the cockroach's association with the outsiders among humans, first with convicted murder Ronnie Joe Waddell, a Black man who awaits exectuion on death row.  He comments: "It is two weeks before Christmas.  Four days before nothing at all.  I lie on my iron bed staring at my dirty bare feet and the white toilet missing its seat, and when cockroaches crawl across the flo or I don't jump anymore.  I watch them, the same way they watch me" (Prologue xi).  The second is a comment made by a policeman staked out in a run-down neighborhood where a thirteen-year-old boy has been murdered and mutilated: " That corner right over there is a popular hang-out for drug drones.  They trade crack for cash and fade.  We catch the cockroaches, and two days later, they're on another corner doing the same thing" (39).

Count Cocky Cockroach-- a fine porcelain collectible doll created by Marie Osmond as part of her "interacting group of dolls entitled the 'Beauty Bug Ball' series" which began "'with the 'Queen Bee' issuing invitations to various and noble inhabitants of her bug kingdom to attend her annual 'Beauty Bug Ball.'"  It is to the point that the cockroach is among those issued invitations!  ( - link no longer working)

Cousins, Steven.  Frankenbug. New York: Holiday House, 2000.  Part of many superb insects are joined and brought to life by young Adam Cricklestein, the hero aspiring-entomologist of this young adult novel.  Cousins got the idea from his daughter's homework assignment, “Design your own Insect.”   But Adam 's superbug, rather than a monster, turns out to be a marshmallow-loving vegetarian-granted with the speed and mobility of its cockroach legs!

Creepshow.  George Romero.  1982. "Romero and novelist/scriptwriter Stephen King pay tribute to E. C. Comics, the pulp horror comics of the 1950s that were hated by parents and teachers, and, on the plus side, were often grisly, grotesque, and morbidly humorous…..Best vignette deals with a phobia-ridden millionaire recluse besieged by swarms of cursed cockroaches.
“….Romero's direction cleverly mimics the narrative style of comic strips
" (VideoHound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics 74).  Leonard Maltin comments: "King's five 'fantastic tales' of revenge and just deserts are transparent and heavy-handed….  The finale had hundreds of cockroaches bursting through the stomach of a man with an insect phobia" (244).  On the other hand, Roger Ebert describes this Stephen King film as "an anthology of human phobias,"  among which "being smothered by cockroaches" ranks high.  He comments: "Upson Pratt …the hero of the fifth story, is a compulsively neat and tidy man who lives in a hermetically sealed command center, much like Howard Hughes.  What could be more suitable than an invasion of his stronghold by cockroaches?"   Inspired by the E C comics ("Educational Comics") of the early 1950s, the story, according to Ebert, teaches that "it was quite unwise to assume that cockroaches would never decide to gang up and fight back" (140).
"…recent demand for strange and exotic insects comes from Hollywood, where film directors interested in particular effects often hire people to supply them with large numbers of exotic (or not so exotic) species.  These people are often credited in the movies as 'insect wranglers.'  Insect wranglers are not only responsible for providing insects but also manipulating them on the set.  This calls for some basic understanding of insect behavior… .  David Brody, of the American Museum of Natural History, traveled to Trinidad and other parts of the Caribbean to provide 20,000 cockroaches for the feature film Creepshow" (Berenbaum 336).
"As early as 1912 C. H. Turner used electric shock to train cockroaches [to solve a maze] in a laboratory experiment.  The same questionable technique was used by the special effects technician for the cockroach invasion in  Creepshow" (Lauck 83).
        Although it would be stretching it to call Pratt's cockroach punishers the protagonists of the piece, they are of enough importance to the plot and the "overall impact" to warrant the film being placed on Mertins' list of "Movies with entomological elements of significant importance"(85, 87), and I think the film supports seeing the cockroaches as conscious and purposeful-even Aristophanean!.

~Crumb, Robert.  "Metamorphosis."  Esquire Jul y 1994: 90-97.  From Introducing Kafka (Totem Books).  Comicbook retelling using Kafka's words.

"La Cucaracha."  Probably the most famous but certainly not the only cockroach-in-music piece, this familiar piece was “among the few Latin numbers” recognized by most Americans “before the first great wave of interest in Latin music in the 1920s” (  A traditional Mexican folk song, in its present form it comments on Pancho Villa's revolution in which la cucaracha was a code name for the  soldadera, female revolutionaries.  Since it has come to be associated with marijuana (a reefer “roach” is the butt end of a marijuana cigarette).

Cukovskiji, Kornej.  Tarnkanisce (“The Cockroach”). A Russian children's tale containing  satiric commentary on the Stalinist regime.Interestingly Osip Mandelstrom was arrested for writing a poem that depicted Stalin with “cockroach whiskers.”



D'Alpuget, Blanche.  White Eye .  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.
An Australian novel about experiments on chimpanzees intended to halt the spread of a dread disease (White Eye).  The chief researcher, an archetypal mad scientist, actually plans to use the serum to halt human procreation.  As he returns to S ydney from Kalanga, the narrator explains that John Parker "found Sydney as obscene as every other big city: a bedlam of shops, cars, and swarms of people.  People.  People.  Cities reminded him of the London flea plague in the fifties.  His bedsheets had been peppered with fleas; on Sundays the minister held aloft the Bible and cried, 'Every swarming thing!  Every swarming thing is an abomination to the Lord!'  Parishioners were urged to cleanse their houses, literally and metaphorically.  Ha!  Look at wh a t forty years of progress have achieved, Parker thought.  Look at the insects now!  Tokyo: educated professionals sitting three hours a day in their motorcars in traffic jams.  Jakarta: a nightmare.  Bangkok: ditto.  London: a joke.  Los Angeles: a time b omb.  In Bogota children had turned into cockroaches, living in the sewers.  Africa was starving and swarming.  In Paris the level of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere was so high that woman with dyed hair who lingered at sidewalk cafes could suffer a change of color in the space of an hour.  And so on and on--a murrain of humans on every continent" (81).

Damnation Alley.  Jan-Michael Vincent  1977.  "Roger Zelazny's 1969 novel  Damnation Ally was filmed to much undeserved fanfare in 1977 with Jan Michael Vincent as Tanner.  Even the basic plot was detrimentally altered.  Instead of Hell [Tanner] leading a medical convoy across the nation to plague-ridden New England, we have this team of cliched cuties travelling to Albany, New York, for want of something be tter to do" (Meyers 100).
"What stands for irony and action here are cheap special effects… .When giant flesh-eating cockroaches attack,…the scenes are so poorly composed that it becomes obvious that most of the creatures are models pasted on rugs which are pulled across the floor with ropes, leaving the way open for the single funniest line of the picture.  Peppard gets on his C. B. and announces, 'The town's infested with killer cockroaches!'" (Meyers 101-102).
Mertins included it in his list of "movies with relatively minor entomological elements," mentioning only that it employs "large cockroaches [and] giant scorpions" (88).

Darin, Morgan.  "The War of the Coprophages."  X-Files episode  Fox  February
5, 1996.  Directed by Kim Manners.
 " 'War of the Coprophages,' (which I have seen no less than half a dozen times now, having shown it in each of my three Eng 102 appROACHES to literature classes), … doesn't obviously urge its audience to think like a cockroach.  There is, however, a central scene where Muldar , convinced that alien robotic roaches which are in fact extraordinarily sophisticated microcomputers (origin unknown) are abroad, picks up what turns out to be a strictly earthly roach and, staring into its eyes, murmurs, 'Welcome to planet Earth.'  Mean while, viewers are seeing Muldar through the roach's eyes (shades of The Fly!) and, if they're as astute as my students, catching the irony of Muldar's anthropocentric vision as well as the relevance of The Alien Empire  to the episode.  Its scientists are entomologist Bambi ('Her name is Bambi?') Berenbaum, undoubtedly a reference to real-life entomologist May R. Berenbaum (she of the Insect Fear Festival), and a Steven Hawkings-likerobotics genius, whose insect robots become attached to Muldar, who is clearly not ready to think about robots capable of liking a human.

"Dr. Bambi is, in fact, key to the episode.  She explains to a smitten Muldar that she loves insects, especially cockroaches, which are her specialty, because of their beauty and honesty.  'Honesty?' questions Muldar, apparently led from his search for the truth that is out there by a rush of testosterone.  Sure, Bambi replies calmly: 'Eat, sleep, defecate, procreate.  That's all that they do and all they pretend to do.  Of course, that's all t hat humans do, too, but they try to make more of it.'  She cuts right through the kind of bullshit that gives the episode its title.
"In addition to the allusion to dung, the episode is replete with allusions to other things roachy and literary without milking the by-now cliched connection to
'The Metamorphosis' that fuels the CD-ROM game  Bad Mojo….'War of the Coprophages' begins with an exterminator's monologue about the cockroach, stopped in mid-stream by the exterminator's death" (Copeland 1996 9-10).

A day in the Life of Rodney Roach.  An illustrated story available on Cockroach World, the Yuckiest Site on the Internet!  ( - link no longer working)

Dearborn, Tricia.  "Consider the Cockroach." (short story)  Social Alternatives 18(July 1999): 2 pp.

Deaver, Jeffrey (writing as William Jefferies).  Hell's Kitchen: A Location Scout Mystery. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.  John Pelham, film maker and location scout, visits the star of his Hell's Kitchen docudrama in the Women's Detention Center where she is being held for arson.  The torched building was her home and  the focus of Pelham's film:
They sat across from one another in a fluorescent-lit room.  A roach meandered slowly up the wall, past the corpses of his kin crushed to dry specks (59).
Much later in the novel, the actual arsonist, stopped by the police as he pumps gasoline into a gas can, manages to drench the ground with it.  The cops run: “ Sunny was on a dry patch of asphalt, though when he touched the flame to the flowing river of gasoline he leaped back fast, like a roach.  The fire was huge.  He grabbed the container and fled” (189).
        One 12 year old, Ismail, whose crack addicted mother and baby sister were burned out, attaches himself to Pelham.  Following him, Ismail turns up wh en Pelham confronts a local Hispanic gang-leader about breaking into his apartment and stealing the two final tapes of West of Eighth:
        Pelham squirmed into the gloomy opening of the alley.  The intruder was Ismail.
        “Yo, cuz,' the boy said, glancing uncertainly at the Latino….
        Ramirez glanced at him like he was a roach.

________. The Stone Monkey. 2002.  Undocumented aliens Wa and his family share the crummy apartment off Canal Street in New York City with roaches who roam “the floor boldly…even [with] a diffuse room light bleeding in through the greasy windows” (122).  Later, about to enter the apartment, Amelia Sacks observes that

Garbage littered the alley way and Sacks knew the rooms here would be dark, probably infested with roaches and would undoubtedly stink.  Imagine…the Was risked death and imprisonment and endured the physical pain of their terrible journey just for the privilege of calling this filthy place their own. (212)

Diaz, Junot. Drown.  New York: Riverhead Books, 1996.  This deb ut collection of a Hispanic writer (born in Santo Domingo, MFA from Cornell, now lives in NYC) is a collection of 10 short stories which links the lives of his compatriots in New York with the presence of cockroaches.  His father's “ first year in Nueva York he lived in Washington Heights, in a roachy flat above what's now the Tres Marias restaurant” (177).  “ He never had time to sleep, let alone to go to a concert or the museums that filled entire sections of the newspapers.  And the roaches.  The roaches w ere so bold in his flat that turning on the lights did not startle them.  They waved their three-inch antennas as if to say, Hey puto, turn that shit off.  He spent five minutes stepping on their carapaced bodies and shaking them from his mattress before dropping into his cot and still the roaches crawled on him at night” (179).  Planning to marry to gain citizenship (and then divorce and bring his family from Santo Domingo to NYC), he pays a woman $800, pinning “ the receipt over his bed and before he went to sleep, he checked behind it to be sure no roaches lurked” (181).  Of course, he never sees her again!
        He does succeed in bringing his family to New York, however.  Years later, at a family party at the narrator's Tia Yrma's “apartment in the Bronx, off the Grande Concorde,” Yunior, too young to join the older kids in Tia's bedroom, sat outside the door: “so I had me and the roaches to mess around with,” he remembers (40).  Later, in “Edison, New Jersey,” sitting next to a “300-pound rock-and-roll chick who washes dishes at Friendly's.  She tells me about the roaches she kills with her water nozzle.  Boils the wings right off them” (125-126).

Disch, Thomas.  "The Roaches" (1965).  Strangeness: A Collection of Curious Tales.  Ed. Thomas M. Disch and Charles Naylor.  New York: Scribner's &
Sons, 1977.  175-184.  "…Disch's story…incorporates layers of negative belief [about roaches].  The heroine Marcia is a lonely young woman who hates cockroaches and spends every evening killing them in her apartment.  T he story's effectiveness depends on readers who are repelled by the look and mobility of cockroaches and horrified by the thought of thousands living behind their walls.  The story begins:

Miss Marcia Kensell had a perfect horror of cockroaches.…She couldn't see one without wanting to scream… .It was horrible, unspeakably horrible to think of them nesting in the walls, under the linoleum, only waiting for the light to be turned off, and then….No, it was best not to think about it.

"The intensity of Marcia's hatred and her single-minded pursuit of them create a link between herself and the insects.  One day she discovers that they understand and obey her commands.  Once aware of her powers over them, she sends them to kill boisterous and erotic neighbors who offend her:

When the insects return, the deadly deed done, they seem to regard her calmly.  Marcia believes she can read their one repetitious thought: 'We love you we love you we love you we love you.'  To her amazement she answers, 'I love you too….Come to me, all of you.  Come to me.'

"The story ends as roaches from every corner of the city hear her and crawl toward their mistress.  The story's message--that loathing can be an expression of hidden sympathies for the thing we loathe--is a subject we will touch on when we examine affinity.  The idea that cockroaches will kill on command reflects the common belief in the robotic mentality of insects and is itself a kind of infantile fantasy of power over others
" (Lauck 6-7).

Douglas, Gregory [Eli Cantor].  The Nest(1980).  New York: Kensington Zebra
Book, 1986.  Horror novel on which the film They Nest(1988) is based.  Not surprisingly, the novel treats the themes of the film as well as the characters (human anyway) with more depth, relying less on visua l horror and exploring secondary themes the movie must ignore because of time constraints.  Cantor is a good novelist and The Nest is worth a careful and critical reading.

Dr. Ded Bug. 1989.  Short “comedy…seen from the insect's perspective as a frenzied chef attempts to hunt down and kill a cockroach” (Angier 118).

Dr. Roach-National Geographic documentary on the life and work of the famous exterminator (Amy)

Dracula.  1979: Mertins includes only this version of Dracula in his second list (films in which “ the arthropod/entomological roles are, at best, subsidiary" [85]), mentioning only that it employs both "cockroaches [and] entomology" (85).

Dunning, John.  Booked to Die (1992).  New York: Pocket Books, 2000.  In referring to the villainous Newton, hero cop/book collector Clifford Janeway says, “I'd really rather talk about the cockroach problem some other time” (93).  Talk about type-casting!



Ebejer, Francis.  Evil of the Cockroach King.  London: Macgibbon & Kee, 1960
(Republished as Wild Spell of Summer.  Malta: Union Press, 1968).
Although cockroaches appear in this novel, set on the island of Malta, only as background, they are intricately involved thematically.  Much of the novel takes place in the cellar of a family bakery where cheesecakes have been the speciality for generations.  Sharing the cellar is a giant cockroach--the King Cockroach of the title--who haunts the elderly baker.  His first appearance is memorable:

Slowly as he watched, the twin antennae, long, waving this way and that, appeared in the mouth of the hole, directly in the light.  They moved forward, still waving, until the head appeared, steady but for the antennae that rose from its apex; then, suddenly, the whole body, gleaming golden brown….

The cockroach, larger now tha n the shadow of the hole… , stood still on the tiny lip of stone.  Its antennae pointed straight at him and their waving movement had become slower and converging.  He stared across the room into the luminous blobs of its eyes and, as he sensed the slight s tirring of its wings, he clutched the sack [of flour] on each side of him with tensed fingers.

The wings that had seemed to spread out closed again and he sighed with relief.

He closed his eyes.

Before he could hear the whirring of its wings, he felt it on his neck: the touch of its legs, the weight of its body was on his flesh.  He screamed, clawed wildly at his neck, fell on his knees, rose again.

He dashed to the basement steps, and as he ran up into the house, he was still screaming at the top of his voice.  (15)

Believing the creature is a demon, Bertu refuses to return to the bakery and therefore refuses to make any more cheesecakes until after the village priest has exorcised the beast.  But the cockroach is neither the creature of the devil nor a sym bol of the greedy owner of the mechanized bakery who is trying to buy Bertu out.  The exorcism fails and when Bertu's daughter replaces him in the cellar bakery, she too falls under the scrutiny of this ominous golden brown creature.  Rather than to a Christian priest, she takes her problem to a traditional healer who lives inland, meeting on the way the driver of the bus on which she travels.  He ends up as her husband and the father of her children, making the cockroach responsible for a future that will prove more fruitful for Rosie than working in the dark cellar of her family bakery.

This is prophesied by the healer, who tells her that the creature "'is barren of seeds… .For its bowels have partaken of blood….Even now it is avid for more'" and warning her that if she stays in that cellar it will drink her blood as well, that "'There is one that will give your blood to the cockroach… .Beware of such a one'" (144).  The enigmatic prophecy becomes the mystery with the cockroach at its center that is worked out in the plot of the novel.  It is a mystery basic to much of Ebeger's work, lying, in his view, at the soul of Malta's discovery of its own identity as it attempts to meld its ancient heritage with the influences of Christianity, capitalism and technol ogy.

Rosie's religious fanatic of a brother proves to be the key to the mystery. His fanaticism is revealed, not as Christian but as his twisted understanding of the religion practiced at the Neolithic Temple outside the village.  Built three millennium b efore Christ it holds at its center a sacrificial well, a hole deep in the stone foundation of the island just as the cockroach's hole is deep in the foundation of Bertu's home.  Grog, the brother, makes that association and, although the family remains u n aware of his behavior, has sacrificed humans--including Rosie's mother--in that basement to the round-bellied gods of the Temple.  This becomes clear only after he has sacrificed himself to these gods he has invented, throwing himself off the 200 foot sto ne rampart of the village (200) after leaving Rosie for dead in the cellar.  Bertu, unaware of his son's death, returns to the bakery just in time to see the coockroach gorging itself on his daughter's blood.  This time he seeks no intermediate:

….he lifted one foot and held it poised… over the cockroach in his daughter's blood; then, slowly, he brought it down.

Teeth gritted with fear and hate, he listened for the awful crunch….

He heard nothing.

When he removed his foot, the imprint of his sandal in the red was clear and in it was half the severed body with the antennae waving wildly until gradually they drooped and stopped.

Then he..took off both sandals and laid them side by side on the crushed bloody half-body.  He rose,…and returned with a can…of parafin….

When nothing but ashes remained, he scooped them with both hands…and threw them outside….He went to the window three times until, at the center of the basement floor, there was only a round, black patch.

On the patch he sprinkled a fistful of flour. (202)

Bertu's half of the cockroach, the half defined by Grog's bloody worship, frees him from his fear.  He remains, baking cheesecakes as his family has for generations when Rosie, recovered from her brother's attack, marries, leaves Valletta for the inland of the island where the soil is as golden-brown as the roach and untouched by either the Temple, the Church, or modern technology and capitalism.

In an interview  in 1984, Ebejer says that his work is tied in with "'living on a small, over-populated island that was colonized until very recently.  There's this idea of independence having not yet completely sunk in….It is tied up with insularity.'"  His heroes, he says, dig themselves " 'into the soil, amid rock, shrub and mysterious caverns in the cliffside'" they have "'sprung from….the roots they've known and felt comfortable in'" (Massa 480).  It is to the fertile valleys where life (the symbolic force of the cockroach when it is not perverted by the religion of either Temple or Church) flourishes that Rosie goes at the end of the novel--though Ebejer suggests that her escape is only temporary.  Her son bears a similarity to Grog and his birth may be not so much the symbol of Malta's rebirth as the reminder that the struggle for identity is unresolved and on-going (205).

Eckstein, Gustav.  "I Began to Call Her Minnie."  Everyday Miracle  (1984).
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.  210-229.  Though nonfiction, Eckstein brought a sympathetic relationship to the cockroach to his many readers in the Marquis' primed 1930ies and '40ies.

Eliot, T. S. Old Possom's Book of Practical Cats.
"That social activist, Jennyanydots, the Gumbie Cat, [c]onvinced that her household's vermin can be rehabilitated with a little remedial breeding,…forms the cockroaches into a scout troop and teaches the mice tatting and music"(Sims 346).

The Enchanted Cockroach  IMEX 2001 (

Espada, Martin.  "Cockroaches of Liberation."  City of Coughing and Dead Radiators.  New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.  23-24. Poem

________.  "My Cockroach Lover."  Imagine the Angels of Bread.  New York:
Norton, 1996.  28-29; Urban Nature: Poems About Wildlife in the City.  Ed.
Laure-Anne Bosselaar.  Minneapolis: Milkweed, 2000:180.

Estrin, Marc.  Insect Dreams: The Half-Life of Gregor Samsa.  New York:
Bluehen Books, 2002.    Estrin's novel with its man-sized cockroach protagonist, Gregor Samsa, is, like Perkins' Bob Bridges, dedicated to Earth's well-being. Interestingly, each novel in uniquely different ways guesses that the regaining or maintaining of that well-being may call for the cockroach to make the ultimate sacrifice that characterizes the true culture hero.  Perkins'like Estrin's is a first novel, and is an enjoyable and thoughtful read, but Estrin's is truly a remarkable novel, easily the equal of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (New York:Random House, 2000).  Though radically unlike Chabon's, it is strangely like it as well.  Anyone who has read Chabon knows why his novel has been called one of the great American novels.  Insect Dreams, though well-reviewed, has not so far received its due.

Like Chabon, Estrin paints a wide geographical and historical canvas.   Both start in the Prague that gave rise to Chabon's Golem and to Kafka's “The Metamorphosis,” the work that embraces the first half of the life of Gregor Samsa.  Kafka's Gregor, like Perkins' Bob Bridges, woke from a deep sleep to find himself on intimate terms with a larger than life cockroach.  Estrin's Gregor's life begins by denying the conclusion of Kafka's tale.  Gregor survives in Prague where, at a Cabinet of Curiosities containing a fossil cockroach 300 million years old, the cockroach Gregor finds his first employment and acceptance.  From there he journeys to New York City where he meets, among other greats of the music scene, the composer Charles Ives, becoming his friend and inspiration.  Then on to Washington, D. C., where he becomes a pivotal force in FDR's government before getting on to the real soul of the novel, the world of Los Alamos and the development of the nuclear bomb.  It is that section of the novel to which the title's Half-Life alludes embracing both the resurrected Gregor and the life-span of radioactive materials.  Estrin's disturbing intermingling of theme, allus ion, humor, and tragedy make this novel a rewarding reading experience for any reader but particularly for anyone as intrigued by the cultural significance of the cockroach as I am.

Insect Dreams also reminds us of the seminal influence of Kafka's creation in 20th and now 21st century cockroach art.  Along with Don Marquis' archy, the cockroach poet whose columns in  The New York Sun began in the 1920s and have been in print ever since, Gregor has spawned almost as many artistic offspring as a biological roach might have fathered, grandfathered, great-grandfathered, etc



Fairstein, Linda.  The Bone Vault.  New York et al: Scribner's, 2003.  Found among the potential exhibits from The Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York gathered for a joint show, The Modern Bestiary, is a jar of preserved Lobster Cockroaches.  In one scene a nervous entomologist twists the jar around so that “their legs and antennae seem… to catch and entangle in each other like a delicate jigsaw puzzle” (168-169).  This appreciative description accompanies a theme that focuses on the ethics of “collecting” human remains, but there is a suggestion of disapproval for the Natural History Museum's animal bones and preserved and stuffed remains as well.

Fenske, Keith.  "Cockroach in a Basket."  1998.

Ferre, Rosario.  La Cucaracha Martina.  Mexico: Educiones huracan, 1990.
Juvenile bilingual.  Also in Senor Cat's Romance and Other Favorite Stories from Latin America (English).  Retold by Lucia M. Gonzalez.

Fitzhugh, Bill.  Pest Control.  New York: William Morrow,1996;  New York: Avon,
1997.  In a review of Fitzhugh's 2001 novel, Fender Benders, Gavin McNutt describes the novelist as “a strange and deadly amalgam of screen-writer and comic novelist” with a “facility for wit (and his taste for the perverse) [that] put him in a league with Carl Hiaason and Elmore Leonard,” and goes on to comment that the novel, “[l]ike the rest of his novels, is plotted like a tight, fairly pro forma Hollywood thriller” and is thoroughly researched as his earlier The Organ Grinders and  Pest Control (While writing the novel, Fitzhugh was hired by Brian Meehl to “write a…script on insects for the insect segment of BBC/PBS's series Eyewitness.” ).  The latter, published in 1996, centers on the lovable entomologist Bob Dillon (Music is always a part of Fitzhugh's metaphoric universe), the essential American innocent.  His dream is to develop an all-natural pest control, an Assassin Bee tle with a prodigious appetite for America's no. #1 enemy, the cockroach.  To support his unorthodox science, he has worked as an exterminator, a job he quits when the company insists he use a particularly lethal bug poison.  His family is in debt, the ren t overdue, the bank account depleted, so he answers a NY Times ad for an exterminator, not realizing it is mob-code for a hit-man.

Taking the job, he finds himself on the best-seller list of assassins when the target dies in an accident so real it doesn't even suggest a hit-because of course, it is a real accident.  None-the-less, this begins a giddy chase in which all the other “guns for hire” on the list are out to eliminate Bob.  You have to read the novel to appreciate how compelling, ridiculous (and true-to-life) the plot is, but the relevant thing for this bibliography is how insectsplay into both plot and theme.

Although not in any conventional sense characters, Bob's Assassin Beetles and their prime target, cockroaches (as well as a host of other fascinating insects Fitzhugh's research turned up), are vivid presences, leading a reviewer in the Liverpool Daily Post to claim it “ does for beetles what Jurassic Park did for dinosaurs.  Within its fascinating pages is a cast of creepy crawlers whose murderous methods put human predators to shame” (  The American edition of Pest Control sports a “bright yellow cover with a dead cockroach in a sniper's sight” (; however, the cockroaches in the novel-except for some clever renegades who manage to breed with Bob's hybrids with particularly gory results-are benign creatures despite the author's Mississippi boyhood where insects and pest control flourished.  His information about them, about the dangers of chemical insecticides and the alternate possibilities of natural controls are as accurate as they are vivid-as are the novel's larger themes of assassination and extermination.

The Flop House.  1932.  Columbia animated cartoon (Leskosky 60).

Fraser, Caroline.  "Ratty Go Batty."  The New Yorker 5 December 1994: 102.

Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life.  Life subject short, 1994.  Shows "the author of 'Metamorphosis' struggling with writer's block on Christmas Eve, until his Capra-esque neighbors dispel his funk.  One brings him a cockroach" (Entertainment Weekly 10 March 1995:50).  Tied for Academy Award (March 1995).



La Gama, Alex.  A Walk in the Night.
A student paper written for an on-line course in Post-Colonial Literature makes a compelling case for the metaphoric relationship between the cockroachand the post-Colonial oppression of the peoples of South Africa.  Beginning with the experience of watching his own aunt hu nt and kill a cockroach, the student makes an extended (and implicitly ecofeminist) comparison of attitudes toward cockroaches and Colonial attitudes toward native peoples.  Under Aparteid, he writes, "the blacks become their society's cockroaches.  In a society that would rather exterminate a cockroach than coexist…with them, the blacks learn to survive on the margins of society.  La Gama pulls the [20thcentury American] reader from my aunt's world where the cockroach always dies into a dark, dirty world where some cockroaches survive."  His conclusion is that "La Gama's narrative perspective, reporting the situation from the view of the oppressed, contributes to the movement toward equality…in South Africa.  If only my aunt saw the world from the cockroach's perspective, she would have thought twice before sucking the cockroach away from its peaceful spot on the wall and into the dark, dirty world inside a vacuum cleaner bag."  The parallels to Breytenbach, Mwangi, and Soyinka are compelling.

Gaiman, Neil.  American Gods: A Novel.  New York: William Morrow, 2001.

…Shadow…pulled up in front of Night's Inn, paid thirty-five dollars, cash in advance, for his ground-floor room, and went into the bathroom.  A sad cockroach lay on its back in the middle of the tiled floor.  Shadow took a towel and cleaned the inside of the tub, then ran the water… .He sat in the tub watching the color of the bathwater change.  Then, naked, he washed his socks and briefs and t-shirt in the basin, wrung them out, and hung them on the clothesline that pulled out from the wall above the bathtub.  He left the cockroach where it was, out of respect for the dead.(134-135)
Later, Gaiman makes a more stereotypical association between roaches and poverty:
Hinzelmann shook his head.  “Biggest problem in this part of the world is poverty.  Not the poverty we had in the Depression but something more in…what's the word, means it creeps on the edges, like cock-a-roaches?”


Yeah.  Insidious. Logging's dead.  Mining's dead.  Tourists don't drive further north than the Dells…” (217).

Still, later, reinforcing the initial positive roach reference, Samantha Black Crow announces: “ I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis…” (307).

After the new gods (Technology, Media, etc.) kill Odin (Mr. Wednesday), Shadow and the others call the old gods together to fight for their survival.  Fair-haired Gwydion, a 7th century Welsh deity, responds:
“It's true, isn't it?  They killed him.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Nancy [Ananzi]. “They killed him.”

The young man [who stocks supermarket shelves] banged several boxes of Cap'n Crunch down on the shelf.  “They think they can crush us like cockroaches,” he said.  He had a tarnished silver bracelet circling his wrist.  “We don't crush that easy, do we?”  (334)
That allusion to survival is echoed at the end of the novel, when the successful Shadow and Mr. Nancy go to Florida:  “The air was alive with whirring palmetto bugs and the ground crawled with creatures that scuttled and clicked” (429)-the gods of life have, at least in fiction, defeated the gods of technology.

Galen, Nina.  The Cockroach Capers.  Ill. by Miriam Eliachar.  Two on-line stories--"The Secret of the Rainforest" and "The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly"-- for children 8 and older.  (

Gass, William.  "Order of Insects."  Heart of the Heart of the Country(1968);  The Art of the Short Story: An International Anthology of Short Stories.  Ed. Daniel Halprin.  New York: Penguin, 1987.  318-322.  Compelling short story in which a housewife evolves from hatred of the cockroach castings on her carpet to appreciation not only of the roach but of the whole insect world.  She realizes that, in general, theirs is a richer life more full of beauty and meaning than hers!

Glowacki, Janosz.  Hunting Cockroaches and Other Plays (1987).  Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1990.  "The two characters in Glowacki's play are Polish immigrants living on New York's lower East Side.  Res pected in their own country as an actress and a writer, Anka and Jan Krupinsky find neither welcome nor work in New York.  He is teaching part-time at Staten Island Community College, attempting to teach 'Franz Kafka to students who drive to school in spo r ts cars' (75) while his wife furnishes their cockroach infested apartment from curb-side gatherings.  While Jan associates them with Kafka's Gregor, with the prisoner in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo who befriends a spider in his cell, with the "termit es, sometimes other insects" in Milton and Beaudeaire who "rhythmically beat their heads against the floor to inform the hero of his imminent death," and with the insects in Genet (113), Anka's first response to the cockroaches who share their apartment is disgust.

"Among these nonzoocentric texts [alluded to], only Glowacki's shares the thematic emphasis of the zoocentric texts [like Kafka's] where cockroaches are seen as complex characters.  Appropriately it is the housewife, Anke, rather than her literate husband who gives the play its meaning.  When Jan appears with a can of roach is Anke who shares the cockroaches' drive to survive and propagate as Jan does not, who seems to recognize them as fellow immigrants, identifies with them and, will ing to accept her commensal neighbors, speaks for cooperation rather than extemination:

      we could start going out again at night.  We'd reach an agreement
      with the cockroaches since they sleep during the day and hunt at
      night.  That way we wouldn't bother one another anymore(27)"  
      1993 233-234)

Gross, Gwendolen.  Field Guide: A Novel.  New York: Henry Holt, 2001.  Set in Australia.  “In the morning in his rented room in Ravenshoe, Leon noticed all the objects around him w hile he slept.  He hadn't noticed, when he lay down last night, the nubby off-white bedspread, the corona-shapes in burgundy on the wallpaper.  In the corner, there was a three-lagged table with an assortment of boarding-room accoutrements: a silver-handle d hairbrush with yellowed bristles, two crusty-looking hand towels, and a cracked water basin with a rose pattern filled to about a third.  A matching pitcher, filled to the brim, sat squat on the floor.  There were waterbugs on the surface of the basin, as if it were a pond, and beads of green algae growing out into the water from the sides” (201).

Grossman, Richard.  "Cockroach."  The Animals: A Pastoral.  St. Paul, MN:
Graywolf Press, 1990. 276. Poem.


[Hagerman, Bill].  The Cockroach Hotel .  San Francisco: Black Rabbit Press,

Hairspray. 1988. Director John Waters.  “…portrays the teen scene in Baltimore at the height of the Roach Dance's popularity….

“In the film's final moments, [Riki] Lane appears in a silk evening gown embroidered with dinner-plate sized black velvet roaches.  While co-stars Sunny Bono, Ruth Brown, Debbie Harry, and Jerry Stiller stare in stunned disbelief, she shows how to shake one's head, thorax, and abdomen to the sound of Gene and Wendell.

'Stomp, step, skip, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.'  The instructions to The Roach Dance are in the song.

“'Squish, squash, kill that roach'” (Gordon 132, 134).

Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  1982.  Mertins notes the film uses hordes of "cockroaches, ants, spiders, etc" to scare audi ences as is often the case "in so-called 'exploitation' (e.g., horror, fantasy, and science fiction) films" (89).  He lists it among those films (done before 1986) in which cockroaches are "essential or very important to the plot or over all impact" (85).

Harington, Donald.  The Cockroaches of Stay More.  New York: Vintage, 1989.

"Welcome back to Stainmoor (pronounced 'Stay More') Valley, Ark., a world readers have come to know well through Donald Harington's wonderful novels….  This time, though, Mr. Ha rington shows us an entirely different part of Stay More, the world down among the grass, crumbs and garbage, the world of derelict cars and such fitful dangers as spiders, scorpions, bats, centipedes, and the Great White Mouse, even the devil himself, the Mockroach.

"Uncertain and vexing, this is the world of the cockroaches of Stay More and, yes, these cockroaches, or 'roosterroaches' as they prefer to be called, can talk--and there is much to be said.  Surprisingly enough, their lives are more familiar than bizarre or wacky; in fact, they're sharply focused reflections of the human lives going on around them.

"Despite their insidious reputation, it's hard to resist insects who've been given the power of speech and perception.  After all, they bring such fascinating news, such insights into the day-to-day business of survival.

"The roosterroaches of Stay More move about in a rather isolated universe, the world of Roamin' Road, including Holy House, where Man lives; the Parthenon, where Woman lives; Carlott (yes, that's the car lot), an assemblage of junked automobiles that is home to the outdoor roaches; and an abandoned schoolhouse--as well as various old clothes, daily leftovers and empty beer cans.

"At the center of the story is one Squire Sam Ingledew, a fine roosterroach, a 'philosopher, an epicure, a naturalist, and a bon vivant,' a thorough skeptic who is deaf from living inside a clock and too bashful ever to talk to a female.  He is certain of nothing, which is healthy because in time all his confus ions are unknotted as the roaches' world falls apart and is mended into something entirely different.

"….Mr. Harington's almost lyrical language and telling eye make this transformation quite delightful and wise--even possible--if the reader will but relax and truly listen to his insectile tale.  The roosterroaches of Stay More, it turns out, have a lot to say that's worth listening to" (Middleton).

~Harriman, George.  Illustrator of the original archy and mehitabel (Marquis).  His Krazy Kat cast also includes cockroaches that were the inspiration for “cartoonist Mark Kausler's design for the 1975 animated film Coonskin” (Gordon 122).

Harris, Thomas.  Hannibal.  New York: Delacorte, 1999.
To attack an agent of the Federal Bureau [Starling]…with Mason's false evidence was a big leap for Krendler.  It left him a little breathless.  If the Attorney General caught him, she would crush him like a roach ” (337).  Harris has a more gruesome fate in store for Krendler, but it's unfortunate that he perpetuates the roach/bad guy stereotype since Krendler is really a rotten, jealous, vindictive human and roaches, whatever else they may be, are none of those things.

Heinlein, Robert B. Starship Troopers. 1997.  Basis of the 1997 film of the same name.

[Herron-Allen, Edward (1861-1943)].  "The Blue Cockroach."  The Purple Sapphire and Other Posthumous Papers, Selected from the Unofficial Records of the University of Cosmopoli by Christopher Blayre, Sometimes Registrar of the University (1921).  London: Philip Alan & Co., 1921.  129-

Hibbert, Martin A.  Parallel Lives:  Monk/ Martin A. Hibbert--Cockroach/ Rupert M. Leydell.  Exeter: Apparitions, 1989.

Highsmith, Patricia.  "Noted From a Respectable Cockroach."  The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder.  New York: Penzler, 1975.  "This disgruntled old roach is the descendant of generations of roaches who have lived at the Hotel Duke on Washington Square in New York City.  He comments on the loss of values apparent in the present very un-Henry Jamesian clientele, a loss clearly meant to reflect society at large.  Then he deserts the degenerate building, comfortably tucked into the suitcase of an equally disgruntled European guest since the problem is too vast for him to solve, as do the fauna in most of Highsmith 's other beastly tales" (Copeland 1997 17).

The House Where Cockroaches Live to a Ripe Old Age.  60 minute video produced by Israeli Maagalot Productions, Tel Aviv.  "Yoram Kaniuk is an Israeli author of fantasy literature.  This documentary examines his problems, his fears and failures, and his wonderful relationship with his wife, who is so full of love for all living things, that even cockroaches have no fear in their household…."

Hogan, Linda.  "Small Life."  And a Deer's Ear, Eagle's Song and Bear's Grace: Animals and Women.  Ed. Theresa Corrigan and Stephanie Hoppe. Pittsburg: Cleis, 1990.  52.
 "the narrator of the Native American poet Linda Hogan's 'Small Life'….has 'surrendered to…/the arcana of insects' because she understands that 'Their breath is the song of air,' and that when
The roach
its shining back
and hairthin feet
creaks the tiles
it is the sound of 'night's music' and that it 'means we are safe/we are never alone'
" (Copeland 1993 243).

Hogan, Wayne.  “Can a Cockroach Have a Nice Day?”  The Latham Letter XV, 4
        (Fall 1994).

Horowitz, Ruth.  Breakout at the Bug Lab.  Illustrated by Joan Holub. Dial.
        When a giant cockroach named Max escapes from their mother's bug laboratory, Leo and his brother receive help from a mysterious stranger in order to recapture the runaway roach.

Hubbell, Sue.  A Country Year.  Quoted in Valerie Harmes.   The National Audubon Society Almanac of the Environment: The Ecology of Everyday Life.  New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1994.  76.
"In truth, I d on't mind the wood cockroaches that come in on my firewood.  Their digestive system and mine differ enough so that we don't share the same ecological niche; they do me no harm, we are not competing, so I can take a long view of them.  There is no need to h arry them as a bee would, or to squash them as a housewife would.  Instead I stoop down beside them and take a closer look, examining them carefully.  After all, having in my cabin a harmless visitor whose structure evolution has been barely touched since Upper Carboniferous days strikes me, a representative of an upstart and tentative experiment in living form, as a highly instructive event.  Two hundred and fifty million years, after all, is a very long view indeed."

________.  Broadsides from Other Orders: A Book of Bugs.  New York: Random
House, 1993.

Human Experiments (a.k.a. Beyond the Gate).  1982.  Mertins includes it among films in which arthropods play "incidental" roles, simply mentioning that it employs "cockroaches, spiders, etc" (88).



Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  1984. Although the film is an extravaganza of "scarab beetles, entomorphagy, cockroaches, phasmids, centipedes, ceramtycids, [and] houseflies," Mertins includes it--rightly so since they are all used only to terrify the audience--among films with relatively "incidental" entomological elements (85).



Jackson, Shirley.  “Laison a la Cockroach.”   Syracusan 4(April 1939).

Jaffee, Jody.  Horse of a Different Killer.  New York: Ivy, 1996.  “The Palmetto State [South Carolina]  (named, I wondered, after the tree or the Titian-colored roaches, bigger than my index finger that bombarded themselves into people during rutting season)” (68).

James, Mary.  Shoebag.  New York: Scholastic, 1990.  Juvenile fiction.  Commenting on the myth of the dirty cockroach, Lauck observes that "They also wash themselves vigorously after being touched by human beings, a fact incorporated in Mary James's novel Shoebag, where a young cockroach wakes up one morning and discovers that he had turned int o a little boy.  As a bacteria-laden human being he is shunned by his insect family and friends" (79).  Clearly James, like so many creators of cockroach characters, finds it valuable to play off Kafka as well as off realistic cockroach behavior.  "Adult readers are likely to appreciate James' allusions and puns more fully than most teenage connisseurs will, but the metamorphosis that causes the cockroach Shoebag to wake one morning to find himself… a ten-year-old boy is a powerful device whether the reader recognizes it as a reversal of Gregor Samsa's metamorphosis or not.  When they finally read Kafka, young readers will remember James' version and the magical Gregor Samsa who champions Shoebag in his Stuart Bagg transformation.

        "Stuart (surely an allusion to E. B. White's Stuart Little) is quickly adopted by a human family and enrolled in the elementary school where Samsa becomes his mentor, all the while longing to return to his roach family in roachdom.  When Shoebag/Stuart does return, the family has moved from the Boston apartment, where monthly fumigation is causing dangerous pollution, to a department store where fumigations are infrequent and the scavenging excellent.  His mother considers Shoebag's recollections of being human as a nightmare brou ght on by too much T. V."  (Copeland 1998 15)

_________.  Shoebag Returns.  New York: Scholastic, 1998.  Juvenile fiction.  "In Shoebag Returns, Stuart/Shoebag champions the other misfits at Miss Rattray's School for Girls, heightening their 'self-esteem' before setting off to trace his roach family which has inadvertently been shipped to Tennessee.  The School Library Journal, obviously not a humor magazine, called Shoebag 'a multi-layered experience… an exploration of the absurdity of prejudice,' something James' young fans probably shouldn't know before they are given the novel to read!  James, who also writes as M. E. Kerr, is as well the author of Frankenlouse ...." (Copeland 1998 15).

Jassal, Amrit.  “The Victors.” On-line short story:
Man, having fled the earth after his wars have made it uninhabitable, leaves the planet to the survivors. “creatures normal, mutated and plainly deformed,” among them real and robotic roaches.

Joe's Apartment.  1995.    "MTV's unpredictably popular 3 1/2 minute short…., as TV Guideput it, is about 'a guy who shares his digs with a lot of incredibly lovable--yes, lovable cockroaches' (Cheers 'N' Jeers).  Its creator, John Payson, describes the video as 'a misty, sentimental love story… .  Boy meets girl.  Girl meets roaches.  Roaches lose girl for boy.  But that's just the beginning.'  MTV has selected Joe's Apartment as the basis for its first feature film."  "The announcement led TV Guide to comment: 'You don't have to be Franz Kafka to imagine the movie-metamorphosis Joe could set in motion, never mind what it could do for roaches.  You might want to consider selling your stock in Raid'" (Copeland 1993 237 and n58)   

Joe's Apartment 1996.  "[A] feature based on the cult MTV short film about a brood of cockroaches and their human roommate.  'They're wise-guy New York roaches,' says David Brody, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History who moonlighted as a 'bug wrangler' on the film.  'They own the apartment'" (Nashawaty).  The musical comedy numbers (animation by Blue Sky Productions) catch the "twitchy motion" characteristic of roaches "that make people feel so uncomfortable" and tu rn it into something appealing.  John Payson "co-wrote the songs sung by the roaches, [and] predicts the audience will warm up when they realize the roaches have feelings too.  In 'Garbage in the Moonlight,' for example, one roach crooner wails, 'You're o ne in a thousand billion baby, won't you be my bug?'" (Robichaux B5).

Juke Bar.  Martin Barry, French-Canadian director.  “A muscal comedy that marries puppet animation with live action, this ten-and-a-half-minute short is … full of singing and dancing.  It's set inside a vintage juke box, which, at the film's end, becomes a roach trap” Gordon 123).



Kafka, Franz.  "The Metamorphosis."   Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories.  Ed. Nahum N. Glatzer.  Trans. Joachin Neugroshel.  New York: Schocken, 1971.  Novelle.
"'The Metamorphosis' somehow strikes a deep and resonant cord in readers all over the world.  Perhaps they feel that the bodies they inhabit are more temporary and provisional than they might like, or that their families' love for them is more conditi onal than it might seem.  Truly few are those who would stand by us if we woke up one morning in a beastly bug's body.  One Nobel prize-winning writer who said the story was instrumental in intiating his writing life was Gabriel Garcia Marquez… .  In a 1988 interview in EL PAIS…, he remembered with great clarity the moment Kafka's story opened up new creative vistas for him:

"'Kafka's Metamorphosis was a revelation…it was 1947…I was nineteen years old…I remember the first phrase, it goes exactly like this: " Gregor Samsa awoke one morning, after a restless dream, to find himself in bed transformed into a monstrous insect"!…Damn!…When I read this I said:  But if you can do this…then I can do it!…Damn!…This is how my grandfather told stories… .  The most unusual things, with the greatest naturalness.'
" (Schweid 100-101)
        "Although Kafka calls his insect a dung-beetle… , thereby associating it with the Egyptian dung-beetle or scarab whose ancient associations with the earth powers are well-documented (Paglia 6, 61), the insect, as John Updike observes, is purposefully ambiguous (1503).  Nonetheless, readers and critics alike have understood Gregor to be a cockroach.  Jan Krupinski, the protagonist of Janusz Glowacki's 1987 play "Hunting Cockroaches" and a writer and lecturer, refers to Gregor as 'The hero of Kafka's Metamosphosis. The one who was transformed into a cockroach' (77).  Most critics have assumed that metamorphosis to be allegorical, a commentary on either Gregor's society or on his psychological response to that society.  Walter Benjamin, John Gardiner, and Harold Blackham, however, suggest that Kafka intended the reader to respond to the cockroach as the story's protagonist rather than as an allegorical figure or symbol.  Kafka's translator, Joachin Neug r oshel, believes that Kafka affords his reader "empathy" in its original connotation--"a process of total mental and spiritual identification"--with the cockroach Gregor has become (xiii).  This same opportunity is offered [in the story] to the Samsa famil y and expecially to Gregor's sister, Grete [all of whom reject the offer]" (Copeland 1993 230).

KILLER KOCKROACH.  An internet comic book featuring a Ninja cockroach who hangs out behind the fridge with his "VAST ARSENAL OF GADGETS AND GIZMOS" and "WON'T STOP UNTIL COCKROACHES RULE THE WORLD (LIKE THEY DON'T)." ( - link no longer working )

Koga, Shinichi Momo.  “Cockroach.”  An inkBoat Production, San Francisco
2002.  “Surreal and darkly comic,… .Cockroach [is] a testament to the tenacity of the unloved and marginal.  Like the cockroaches, many human groups have become despised and ignored by those in positions of power and wealth.  The human will to survive can manifest beauty, terror, and mystery”  (  Director and choreographer Momo, a member of TEN PEN Chii in Germany, co-choreographs for Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemb le and has danced in Harupin-Ha, based in Berkeley.  Butoh is a minimalist style that emerged in Japan after the war years.  See also: (link no longer working).

Koontz, Dean.  Whispers.  In chapter 8 the setting is an isolated house and separate underground cellar filled with softly rustling cockroaches.

Konnshevich, Chukovskii.  Tarakanishye (The Cockroach).  Pound Ridge,
NY:  Aleph-Bet Books, nd (original Leningrad, 1935).  This rare children's book tells the story of a despotic cockroach who terrorizes the other animals until he is eaten by a bird (Is there a tie-in here with the Carribean/African folktale relationship between cockroach and hen or rooster?).  Color illustrations by the author really tell the story.
Kumin, Maxine.  “The Survivor.”  Hunger Mountain 1(Fall 2002): 49.  Observing the cockroach's journey with man “ on/ the long climb from savagery/ to civilization,”  and their long, shared history, the poet condemns human treatment of the cockroach.  Calling the insect our “spurned lover,” she envisions that in spite of us

After the final call to arms

after we go under

she alone will lurk, hatching babies

to feed on the charred remains

of our apocalyptic blunder.



The Lady in Red.1935.   Fritz Freleng.  Warner Bros. animated cartoon
(Leskosky 60).  “ This five-minute animated film [which appeared only six years after the introduction of “talkies”]….takes place in a Mexican café, where a bunch of roaches are making themselves at home-bowling with olives, playing tennis with peas, and crowding into the Roach Nite Club, where dancing and musical entertainment is provided by a lovely Senorita Cockroach.  Before the Carmen Miranda-esque crooner can conclude her rendition of 'The Lady in Red,' she is abducted by a parrot, then rescued by a handsome blattarian hero.  The end” (Gordon 123).

~Lamb, Gina.  American artist whose “TV Consumers” uses a plexiglass container of “lab-reared American cockroaches” and a dismantled TV set, “innards exposed.” A closed-circuit video camera with a zoom-lens projects the image of the “blattids feasting on the TV onto the sets own 21 inch screen.  The result was lauded by Art News as an apt metaphor 'for the current media-saturated state of hyperreality…in which the signs for the real have parasitically consumed their beleaguered host'” (Gordon 20).

Landolf, Tommaso.  Il mar delle blatte (Cockroach Sea).  Milano: Adelphi Edizion,

~Larson, Gary.  Wildlife Preserve: A Far Side Collection.  London: Futura, 1990.

Lee, Ralph.  See Communications from a Cockroach.

Lefebre, Dennis A.  "A Liberated Cockroach" (Found Dead).  Poem published online ( - link no longer working).

Lenagh, Kevin.  Domino Chance, Roach Extraordinaire.  1982-85.  “A series of nine self-published comic books… .set twelve thousand years in the future, when chaos reigns and human-sized roaches in red, hooded flight suits call the shots” (Gordon 122-123).

Lispector, Clarice.  "The Fifth Story."  Deal s with issues of control and colonizing--denying existence to one being (cockroaches in this story) merely for the material comfort of another (the colonizer).  In other words, the cockroaches are just trying to survive in the alien environment (human-mad e constructions) forced upon them.

________.  "The passion according to G. H." (1964).  The Borzoi Anthology of Latin American Literature.  Vol. II.  Ed. Emir Rodrigues
Monegal.  New York: Knopf, 1988.  779-792; Minneapolis: U of Minnisota
P, 1997. "The African desert of Camus, Kafka's cockroach and Sartre's radical dyspepsia all make guest appearances in th[is]…brilliant and entertaining philosophical novel….G. H. is the novel's narrator… .She is a type Lispector has worked with before, in the remarkable story collection 'Family Ties, where pampered, protected women from Brazil's upper class discover that boredom can be the precursor to revelation ….she sets out to clean the maid's room….What she encounters there so shocks her it sets off a quest for self-knowledge that makes up the rest of the book… .after a mystic communion with that Kafkaesque and Christlike cockroach, she arrives on a new plane of being…" (Ruta).

"This novel is a prolonged meditation on a single cockroach, crushed and held in the door of a closet, with its fat body seeping out.  A Ukranian-born woman who lived in Brazil and died in 1977 at the age of fifty-six, Lispector is described in the translator's forward as a 'literary cause celebre in her adopted Brazil but viewed in France, beca use of the very same texts, as an important contemporary philosopher dealing with the relationships between language and human (especially female) subjecthood…."(Schweid 82-83)  The quote Schweid chooses from the text is illustrative of this ecofeminist vision:
"I haven't said how, sitting there motionless, I still hadn't stopped looking with deep disgust, at the yellowed white mass on top of the cockroach's grayness.  And I knew that as long as I had that disgust the world would evade me and I would evade myself.  I knew that the basic error in living was finding cockroaches disgusting.  Finding disgust in the thought of kissing a leper was missing the primary life inside me…for disgust contradicts me, contradicts my matter in me….

"For redemption must be the thing itself.  And redemption in the thing itself would be my putting into my own mouth the white paste from the cockroach
" (Trans by Ronald W. Sousa.  Quoted in Schweid 82).

Liu Yichang. "The Cockroach" (1966).  The Cockroach and Other Stories.  Trans. Florence Hoetal.  Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 1995.  1-43.
"'The Cockroach' is a[n]… ambitious exploration of psychology and philosophy….  A story in which Hong Kong becomes a less-than-necessary prop, it may be read as a kinder, gentler variation of Franz Kafka's 'Metamorphosis.' With some reverence for life thrown in but decidedly without any Kafkaesque passion or sense of despair" (Wong).

Livo, Norma J., ed.  “The Bee, the Mouse, and the Bum-Clock.”  Troubadour's Storybag.  Fulcrum Publishing, 1996.  A Bum-Clock is, according to Irish Fairy Tales, ed. Philip Smith (1993), a cockroach.  Smith's source was Donegal Fairy Stories (1900).

Loomis, Edward.  Poems of a Cockroach.  Blind Camel, 1970.  21pp.

Lorca, Frederico Garcia.  El Malefico de la Mariposa [The Butterfly's Evil
](1920).  "in 1929, the great Spanish poet… wrote a poem that he turned into a play…about a cockroach that saves the life of a butterfly, then falls in love with her, only to be abandoned" (Schweid 120).  "Gordon…comes up with a r eference to a lost cockroach narrative poem and verse play by…Lorca [mentioned] in Ian Gibson's biography of the famous Spaniard….  El Maleficio de la Mariposa… is the sad tale of a cockroach who rescues and falls in love with an injured butterfly, who returns his kindness by flying off as soon as she recovers, 'leaving the poor brokenhearted roach to die' (Gordon 130).
        "The play fared worse than has [the feature film] Joe's Apartment.  Its audience on opening night literally silenced the actors by their 'catcalls, insults, foot stomping, and witticisms.'  According to… Lorca's biographer, Spaniards were 'not yet ready (and no doubt never would be) for a verse play concerning the amorous misfortunes of cockroaches' (Gordon 131).  Recovering El Maleficio de la Mariposawould make an invaluable contribution to our growing bibliography of cockroach literature" (Copeland 1997 17).

Loya, Olga (storyteller).  "La Cucarachita."  Animal Stories.  Video:Atlas Video,



Madach, Imre. A civilizator (The Civilizer).  I have not been able to find the text of this play and know it only through Lotze's essay.

"Of primary interest is Madach's own description of the play as 'a comedy in the manner of Aristophanes,' since the earliest use of the cockroach in Western l iterature appears to have been in Aristophanes' comedy 'Peace.'  Almost as essential is his recognition that satire seems the mode most often employed by works in whatever genre that employ cockroaches as major characters or protagonists.  Additionally, both authors 'present in their works a blend of sophistication and burlesque.  Slapstick humor and bawdiness can be found in Madach's play as well as in all Aristopanic comedies' (217).  These characteristics are found in almost all cockroach literature, as is the use of 'comedy to castigate what [is] considered deplorable in the political or cultural arena' (216).

"'The Civilizer' is a one-act play and cockroaches serve as its chorus. Unlike Aristophanes' giant roach, they work against the farmer hero, atte mpting to turn his servants against him and toward 'Stroom, the great civilizer.'  Stroom, a German, is attempting to replace traditional Hungarian culture with German culture and the cockroaches, his assistants, serve as the '"irresistable carriers of ci v ilization'" (206).  Undoubtedly Madach alludes to the fact that roaches have accompanied Western civilization in its effort to 'civilize'--conquer.  As Lotze points out, 'Madach's cockroaches--like good policemen and informers--can penetrate into any crac k and dig into any dirt.  In addition they consume whatever is edible' (217).  At one point Stroom 'reminds the cockroaches of the lessons in strategy learned from Attila, Scipio, and Napoleon' (207).  None-the-less, Stroom and his legions are defeated and the chorus flees for its life, 'imploring the earth, in their final choral song, to

Be sorrowful and cry in pain,
Swabia has fallen, the sacred bastion,
And Europe, which we had Germano-Christianized so beautifully,
Has sunk again into wild paganism .
(quoted 208).

Lotze comments that

The choice of cockroaches to present the chorus of 'Bach hussars' is ingenious.  Not only do these insects elicit immediate emotional responses, but their Hungarian name, 'svabbogar' (or 'svab'), actually means 'Swabia n bug,' and 'Swabian' was traditionally used in Hungary as a genetic term for all German-speaking settlers… .  Thus, when the chorus mourns in the end that 'Swabia has fallen, the sacred bastion,' it acknowledges that Hungary can no longer be considered a province of Austria, governed by a Germanic bureaucratic elite. (209)(Copeland appRoaches  note 29)

Majid.  “The Cockroach Murder” (Short story).  The Iranian, an online news

Marquis, Don.  archyology: the lost tales of archy and mehitabel.  Ed. Jeff Adams. Ill.Ed Frascino. UP of New England, 1996.  Adams discovered Marquis' ms with new adventures of archy and his sidekicks in a steamer trunk with a cache of other Marquis papers in the late 1970ies.  The papers had been stored when Marquis died in 1937, purchased by a rare book collector, but unexplored (Taylor; Slung).  

________.  archyology ii (the final dig).  Ed. Jeff Adams.  Ill. Ed Fascino.  UP of New England, 1998.  "In archyology ii, readers are treated to what will be the last of archy 's views 'from the underside'; the continuing adventures of archy, the Cockroach Detective, a spoof of the gumshoe genre popular in Marquis's era; and more escapades of mehitabel, the indomitable alley cat, begun in Marquis's original columns in the first decades of the [20th] century" (Copeland 1998 15).

________.  archy and mehitabel (1927).  Ill George Harriman.  New York:
Doubleday Anchor, 1990.

________. archy does his part (1935).  Ill. George Harriman.

________. archy's life of mehitabel (1933).  Ill. George Harriman.

________.  the lives and times of archy and mehitabel (1940).  Ill. George
Harriman.  New York: Doubleday,1950.  See as well entry for Stabenow.
"A novelist and a playwright, Marquis is, as he feared, in  danger of being remembered as 'the creator of a goddam cockroach.'  He employed animal characters as they had been used since Aesop--to satirize human behavior.  However, Aesop's industrious ants and shiftless grasshoppers were, as Chesterton remarked, like so many chess pieces. Marquis infused his creations with life and individuality, with his own take on the brevity and smallness of life.  They lived.  They still live, and they still answer Archy's own question:

human wandering through the zoo
what do your cousins think of you
" (Sims 110-111)
"Ever since archy stopped jumping on the keys of Don Marquis' typewriter in the offices of the New York Sun, cockroaches have passed from the ken of most of us.  It is a pity.  Archy was not only a character in his own right; he also knew a wonderful assortment of fleas, spiders, alley cats, and other reputedly despicable creatures.  Ours is a world of insecticides, rodenticides, herbicides, and etceticides.  As archy complained:
I have just been reading
an advertisement of a certain
roach exterminator
the human race little knows
all the sadness it
causes the insect world
"Of course, a biologist will tell you that insects are unlikely to experience sadness and that archy was not a real cockroach.  Perhaps so; but there is a sadness here, for the human species is bereaved when it is unable to appreciate the world of small and creeping things.  I heartily recommend cockroaches.  Unlike archy, the average cockroach has little or no poetry in his soul.  But he is a marvelous beast nonetheless.  He must, of course, be met on his own terms, in his own world.  He has been inhabiting that world successfully for somewhat more than 250 million years.  The earliest fossil cockroaches look so much like contemporary species that one can almost imagine them freshly crushed by some irate housewife.  But the first housewife was still more than 249 million years in the future.  Any creature so adept at survival would seem to be worth our attention; survival is a subject we can afford to learn much more about" (Evans 48-49).

Marsh, Richard.  The Beetle (1897).Dover, NH: Alan Sutton in assoc with U of Luton, 1994.
"Richard Marsh's tale of metamorphosis, of a beetle which can transform itself into an insect, man or woman, or both…appeared in the same year as Bram Stocker's Dracula, 1897.  By 1913, Dracula was in its tenth printing; The Beetle in its fifteenth.  In 1919 a silent film directed by Alexander Butler, starring Henden Foster as the MP around whom the plot revolves, and Leal Douglas as the beetle, was made.  In 1928 Alexander Sofaer and Catherine Lacey starred in a theatrical version in [London's] West End at the Strand Theatre"

"Marsh's is not a tale written in isolation but draws upon literary traditions of fantasy and tran sformation, having roots in the Gothic, and the mid-Victorian Sensation Novel, as well as in the works of contemporaries such as Stoker, Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson.  The Beetle draws upon the occult, the mysterious, gender transformation, the deformed beetle, the soul of an Egyptian princess who can turn into both a man and woman.  The opening of the tale, with its description of a vulnerable tramp living on the edge of society, alone, unprotected, breaking into what appears to be an empty mans ion, is powerful, drawing upon suspense.  The central plot uses the themes of power and domination with an MP who was compelled under the influence of drugs while in Cairo to witness orgies.  English girl tourists were used as sacrificial victims.  The suspense and fascination awakens the reader to realities beyond the material….

"The nature of reality and belief  are a central theme….Doubt of oneself, of one's own sanity and of the external universe are as much the motifs of The Beetle as they are of Dracula … .The beetle represents an immortality which is physical, deformed and subhuman rather than superhuman.  The eternal life of the ancient Egyptian princess existing in the deformed subcreature is not the transfigured existence promised by orthodox Christia nity and Victorian progress.  Metamorphosis and doubt belong to the postmodern rather than the image of high Victorian culture projected by the 1890s and the confidence of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations of 1898.  It is in the context of Wells'   The War of the Worlds, increasing mechanization and various manifestations of challenges to authority such as strikes that The Beetle should be placed" (William Baker Introduction vii).

Though Marsh's beetle is in reality the Egyptian scarab, there is even more literal conflation with the cockroach than is found in Kafka's The Metamorphosis.  It is literal on page 105 and implied in the vivid descriptions of the creature and its' metamorphoses thereafter.  The female "sacrificial victim,” Marjorie, h as a distinct aversion to cockroaches (123) that extends to the beetle--"a huge, writhing creation of some wild nightmare" (199).  As far as I know, there is no evidence that Kafka knew the novel, but the linking in it of a beetle-like creature suggesting a cockroach as well as the theme of metamorphosis makes seeing an influence in Marsh tempting.

Martin, Les. Die, Bug, Die: A Novel (X Files, No 10).  Young adult novel based on "The War of the Coprophages" by Morgan Darin.

Matsumoto, Lisa.  How the B-52 Cockroach Learned to Fly.  Ill. by Michael
Furuya.Hawaii: Lehua Press, 1995.  "On the island of O'ahu, Kimo, a brave young cockroach, dreams of a better life for all roaches.
"Tired of living in the garbage, Kimo sets off on his quest to prove that roaches deserved a respected place in the insect kingdom.
"Lisa Matsumoto's story and Michael Furuya's paintings bring to life a delightful and humorous tale about the unusual habits of Hawaii's most feared household pest, the giant B-22 cockroach" (  “…in Hawaii…on warm, breezy nights, male American and Australian cockroaches often take to the sky.
“'People here actually think these cockroaches dive bomb them on purpose,'notes Lynn LeBeck, an entomologist on the staff of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Misinterpreting such bumbling attempts at flight for acts of aggression, Hawaiians have nicknamed this creature 'the B-52 cockroach'” (Gordon 87-88).

McCarthy, Eugene J.  "Roaches Take Over New York City Buses."  Ground Fog and Night: Poems by Eugene J. McCarthy.  New York and London:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.  43  poem.

McEwan, Elaine K.  Project Cockroach: A Josh McIntyre Book.  Elgin, IL: Chariot Victor, 1991.

McGrath, Robin.  "The Cockroach Room."  Trouble and Desire.  St. John's, Newfoundland: Killich Press.
"Amy has an affair with a Turkish mathematician teaching in Edmonton.  The affair ends when she declines his invitation to live with him in Turkey, a possibility which evokes for her the memory of a visit to a university lab filled with cockroaches.  She imagines herself in Turkey 'surrounded by swarming, brown, hard-shelled bodies.'  Nothing has prepared us for this eruption of racism in Amy's mind.  The story ends a page or two later as she wallows in self-pity, never giving a thought to the pain she must have inflicted in the innocent Fagil….

"…in terms of character and theme, the ending parallels an O. Henry plot twist.  The woman we have been led to empathize with suddenly morphs into a self-absorbed racist.  A major thematic issue is raised only on the penultimate page" (Mathews).

McKevan, D. Keith. “epitaph for archy;” “___and another for the well-known archie.”  A scientist who “has done some of the best historical and folk medical research on the cockroach… .  The poems suggest,” according to Mechling, “the respect that comes with studying these insects” and links McKevin with “the cartoonist Breathed, the novelist Harington, and the writer Marquis” (137).

Melville, China.  King Rat.  New York: Tor, 1998.  Although the novel, a refocusing of the legend of the Pied Piper, focuses on rat characters, when the mad Piper is explaining that his music can be adapted to lure any species to him, he says: “ Play the right notes and I can get you the cockroaches around us, the mice, anything close enough to hear” (140-141).  Given that London's sewers serve as a major setting in the novel, it's surprising that is Melville's only allusion to cockroaches.

Men in Black.  Screenplay by Ed Solomon.  1997.  "In this rather comic sci-fi movie the ruthless extraterrestrial alien is… a cockroach, hated and feared by humans and other extraterrestrials alike.  No matter that the cockroach villain has teeth like a shark and a body that resembles a lizard, the real cockroaches that drop out of its sleeve throughout the movie are enough to pair it with the loathing people feel toward this particular insect" (Lauck 5

~Merian, Maria Sibylla.  Plate 1: Dissertation in Insect Generations and Metamorphosis in Surinam.  2nd ed. 1719.   Merian was “a German-born naturalist and watercolor artist” who at age 52 sailed to the Dutch colony of Surinem off the northeast coast of South American to study its rich fauna, publishing in lithograph form “ images of American and German cockroaches in assorted developmental stages, crawling and hovering around a wild pineapple plant in bloom” (Gordon 117).  She began this sequel to the popular  Metamorphosis Ins ectectorum Surinamensium (1705) with an illustration of a pineapple because “'the pineapple is easily first among all the edible fruits of the world.  Properly it begins the series, both in the arrangement of this work and in my observation.'…Yet…the focus of her treatise was insect life, and in the same illustration Merian explores the albino cockroach 'of all the insects in America the most noteworthy…pest, because they are ubiquitous and destructive and troublesome to the inhabitants.'She depicts the cockroach sitting upon the green leaf of the pineapple, a food 'sweet to them,' as well as an egg sack which the 'female…carries in a certain sack under its hidden belly'” (“Artist Profiles” 2).

The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa. 1978.  Carolyn Leaf.  Canadian animated
Cartoon (Leskosky 63).

Miale, Walter. “Insecticide,” chapter 4 of The Odds Against Having Been Born ( - link no longer working).

~MicroAngela (Tina Weatherby Carvalho).  Bugband.  Using electron microscopeimages as the basis of her composition, Carvalho arranges, augments, and colors her insect images.  Her cockroach drummer is as integral a part of insect harmony as he is acknowledged to be in Linda Hogan's poem “Small Life” or Donald Harington's novel The Cockroaches of Stay More.

Mimic.  Guillermo del Torro. 1997.  (uncredited rewrite, John Sayles--Schweid,
123-4).  From a short story by Donald Wolheim.  May Berenbaum is quoted as finding Mimic a good film for her Insect Fear Festival "which traditionally focuses on the misinformation that Hollywood uses to portray insects."  She found "the science" in the film "totally ridiculous" (Barlow).

Mimic "features ghastly humanoid cockroaches that terrorize Manhattan afte r a hybridizing experiment goes terribly wrong" ("Infernal Insects Keep Us Squirming in Our Seats" (The Hartford Courant quoted in The [Northampton, MA] Daily Hampshire Gazette  2 September 1997: 19).  Newsweek's Ray Sawhill calls it "undoubtedly the best mutant-cockroach horror thriller ever made… .it never sacrifices its story or characters to its special effects, and its thrills aren't extensions of theme parks or videogames.  It works on your emotions rather than your nerves.

"The script…tells a classic nature-takes-revenge-on-us-for-messing-with-her story.  Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam are scientists who have stopped a cockroach-borne epidemic in New York City by releasing genetically engineered roaches progamed to breed and then die.  A few years la ter signs of a different problem appear: some of the mutant bugs may have outwitted their DNA, mutating into scary new forms.  The two scientists set out to solve the problem they have created" (72).

“Mimic is an interesting and different sort of bug movie rooted in the Frankenstein traditon.  Director del Toro may not provide the bad bug with a very clear psychology or complex motivations, but it is worth saying that the giant Judas roaches of Mimic have an astonishing visual realization, combining eerie beauty with hideous horror.  It is hard to believe that a truly revolting cockroach could have a beautiful visage enabling it to conceal itself and mimic its own predator, man.  The film's extraordinary verve, pacing, and visual style make it more interesting to consider than the somewhat simplistic messages in it would suggest” (Freeland 84).

Mistress Cockroach.”  In Anne Sinclair Mehdevi.  Persian Folk and Fairy Tales ISBN 0-394-91496-1.
"It is a rather long tale, about a lady cockroach on her way to marry, dressed in her finery.  Along the way she meets many male cockroaches who ask her to marry them.  She has begun to put on airs, viewing herself to be more than she really is.  She questions them about how they will treat her after they are married. When she doesn't like their answers, she moves on.  Finally she marries a mouse who treats her like a queen and she becomes terribly spoiled.  Trouble ensues and in the end the mouse dies.  She mourns him saying he was the only one who treated her like a queen and vows to never marry or wear fine clothing again and, to this day, cockroaches only wear black.  An interesting porquoi tale (Karen Chance, posted to H-NILAS@ MSU.EDU in response to the Monthly Discussion Topic:”cockroaches, ”  Sat 23 June 2001).

Mitgang, Herbert.  "Insects Noir."   insectASIDES: Great Poets on Man's Best Friend.  Ed. Martha Paulos.  New York: Viking Studio Books, 1994.  44 and 46.

Moraga, Cherri.  “The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa,” in New Worlds of Literature, ed. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hanter (1990).  A theater piece set in a California barrio in the 1950s, its set becomes shabbier as the play progresses.  This dissolution is symbolized by red cockroaches which at first simply dot the walls.  By the end, there are so many of them the walls are uniformly blood red (Wiley).

Moreton, Daniel.  La Cucaracha Martina: A Carribean Folktale.  New York: Tartto Books, 1997.

Morley, Christopher.  "dedicated to don marquis."  InsectASIDES: Great Poet's on Man's Best Friend.  Ed. Martha Paulos.  New York: Viking Studio Books, 1994.  1-2. poem

Moore, Marianne.  “England.”  Characterizes “the East with its snails, its emotional/ shorthand and jade cockroaches, its rock crystal and its/ imperturbability,/ all of museum quality.”

Mr. Bug Goes to Town.  1941.  Max Fleisher animated cartoon.

~Mnatsakanov, George.  “A Cockroach.”  Ink in non-stretched silk.  One of the founders of Russian Catatonic Psychorealism, “which brings the search for humanity, spirituality and culture back into the art focus,”  Mnatsakanov paints in both the European and Chinese traditions.  “A Cockroach” is very much in the Chinese which has more place for insects, spiders, snakes, etc. than does the European: “the core element of George Mnatsakanov 's art is his ability to find resources for a transformation: to make the old disclose the new and to ground the new in the old.”  Here and in its companion-piece, “A Fly,” the silk is not stretched as it traditionally is.  The resulting “movement of the free-floating cloth…[both] creates interesting, constantly changing patterns of reflection…that animates the image” (Sokolovsky).

Mrozek,Slawomir.  El Arbol.  Barcelona: Quaderns Crema, 1998.

Mwangi, Meja.  The Cockroach Dance (1979).  UK: Longman's African Classics.
198 9.  In this Kenyan novel, cockroaches are associated with the poor and powerless as they so often are in literature.  They fill the slum dwelling and dreams of the main characters Dusman and Toto: "Dacca House cockroaches did everything except get out and go away for good.  They ate raw food, drank three day old milk, slept in his reeking shoes and now this tail-waggling dance on his bed.  He [Dusman] would not be surprised at all if he found them smoking his cigarettes" (15-16); "Some nights he heard the c ockroaches plot against him.  He did not quite understand their language but he got the message loud and clear.  Like most of his neighbors, they hated him" (23).  Pages of the novel describe these cockroach neighbors against whom Dusman takes action once they grow "so carefree and daring that they no longer scampered under the bed when a Homo sapiens walked into the room.  They needed some disciplining.  Killton [an insecticide] would do it.  According to the radio commercial, New Killton killed bugs dead" (68).  But instinctively Dusman understands that the roaches are to him what he is to those now in power in Kenya.  When he discusses his hatred of the roaches with the psychiatrist the government has sent this disgruntled civil servant to consult, Dusman says he hates the cockroaches, but when the doctor suggests killing them, Dusman replies "'You…you don't understand….You just don't understand'" (137).

Doctor Bates sees Dusman an an anomaly, "the original heathen, the crude, unrefined African savage" (14 9).  All the inhabitants of Decca House, human and nonhuman, Dusman finally understands are considered nonhuman by Bates and his cronies--"mice and cockroaches and zombies" (212).  At the end of the novel Dusman lies awake and finds himself promising "the old skeptical cockroaches that tomorrow would never come" (372).  However he has also awakened to the nature of his cockroach neighbors and the humanity of his human neighbors, throwing himself into a fight for lower rents in which they all support him. The struggle obviously represents Mwangi's own fight for the rights of all Kenya's peoples.



Naked Lunch. David Cronenberg 1991 .

"David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch features the cockroach.  Cronenberg, who also directed The Fly, uses the novels of William Burroughs as his inspiration but goes well beyond Burroughs by making his cockroaches, albeit drug-induced hallucinations, real presences in the film.  They contrast to the real roaches who scurry to escape William Lee's roach spray at the opening of the film .  Cronenberg too makes the connection between women and cockroaches that distinguish [what I call] zoocentric texts.  Lee's wife has gotten hooked on roach powder--it gives her, she says, a 'Kafka high.  You feel like a bug!'  She seems because of her coloring and the lighting used to have become a cockroach herself.  When Lee accidentally shoots her in an apparent innocent game of William Tell, it is as though he has, by eliminating the feminine, the real roach, eliminated his only possibility for salvation.

"Actually Lee has been advised by the Chase Officer Cockroach whom he meets chomping roach powder in his cell when he is arrested for possession that his Controller wants him to kill his wife, that she is an agent for Interzone and not a human at all.  It is the women he encounters in Interzone who are not women at all and when he acceded to the advice of his cockroach typewriter, Clark Nova, to become homosexual he further separates himself from the possibility of release.  The result is that he is doomed to relive the shooting of his wife rather than to expiate the act.

"Despite Clark Nova's mechanical nature and his association with drugs and the anti-feminine, he becomes a curiously appealing character.  It is he who actually produces the manuscript of Naked Lunch, which seems somehow related to the ritual of creation that Lee has denied.  Lee's self-absorption, enhanced by using the roach powder, is what enlarges the roaches he lives by killing into the sentient, larger-than-life speaking roaches of the prison and Interzone.  When he 'dies,' Clark Nova tells Lee, 'All agents defect,'…" (Copeland appROACHES note 48).

The Nest.  Terrance H. Winkless.  1988.

"1983 saw the publication of the first report of successful genetic transformation of an insect… and by 1989 genetically engineered insects (specifically, mutant killer cockroaches) made their first appearance in an otherwise forgettable science fiction film (They Nest)" (Berenbaum 332).  Based on The Nest  (1980), a novel by Gregory Douglas [Eli Cantor]: "ever so familiar chronicle of a failed scientific experiment resulting in the creation of large, hungry cockroaches.  Neither the best nor the worst of its type " (Maltin 1992).  As the plot develops it turns out that "a corporation greedy to dev elop the real estate potential of the island [on which the action takes place] had agreed with the mayor to sponsor genetic engineering research aimed at developing roaches that would eat roaches.  Instead the experiments resulted in the flesh-eating cockroaches over-running the island.  Finding the giant queen cockroach [a little inbreeding with termites here] and her nest, the lead [human] female character manages to explode a bomb sealing the nest.  The island and its remaining inhabitants are saved " (Mechling 131-132).

It is worth mentioning that the island is saved by a woman, placing the film among those discussed by Cynthia Freeland in The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the Appeal of Horror as “Women and Bugs” movies, films in which “heroines help to restore order and justice, often bringing intellect, strength, and intuition, in addition to emotions like maternal caring into the picture.”  Finally, for all its lack of originality and [its] illogic, They Nest is one creepy crawler of a …movie, with some of the most ambitious bug sequences ever put on film.  Whether we're watching one of the roaches slowly hobble toward someone's fingers, or a mass of the 500 live Madagascan hissing cockroaches (doubling for the African armadillo bugs) scamper across a basement floor, the insect actors (including the computer-generated ones) are absolutely convincing and are sure to have you sweeping your fingers over your clothes and hair.  And for a bug movie, that's high praise indeed.  (Feldman 4)

Ng, Eric.  "The Dinosaur and the Cockroach" (1985).  Tales of the Living, Tales of the Dead.  Singapore:  Landmark Books, 1990. 1390169.  Ng's imagery finds an exact parallel in the essay, “The Cockroach and the Dinosaur” by Willie Baptist.

Nichols, John.  The Voice of the Butterfly.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2001.

Actually the fictional saga of Charley McFarland's fight to save the nonfictional and endangered Phisric Copper butterfly from a by-pass that would destroy its territory, the novel serves to “spread the Insect Gospel” (48).  One of the characters suggests that “History is a big farce… involving a bunch of human ants no more intelligent than aphids or parameciums” (94), so it lumps us all in the joke together.  Nonetheless, when Charley's alcoholic, but ardent wife is jailed, she claims, “'I deserve to be in here….I should be locked in solitary in a concrete hole full of cockroaches and silverfish, then maybe I'd be scared straight and would fly right'” (145), so apparently the Gospel only applies to certain insects, cockroaches not among the chosen.

Nyberg, Morgan.  Galahad Schwartz and the Cockroach Army.  Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Groundwood Books, 1987.  Juvenile fiction.

"Morgan Nyberg's novel…can be summed up in one word: whimsy.  This book is a delightful mixture of the fantastic and the everyday.  The hero…is…a free-spirited boy raised by his Nobel-Prize-winning parents in a South American jungle… .His nanny Quig is a 'witch doctor' version of Mary Poppins.  In this jungle home Galahad wanders free, exploring and entertaining himself at will.  When Galahad's parents go on an assignment to herd clouds over the Sahara  desert, he is left in the care of Quig.  When his parents fail to return Galahad is…sent to live with his grandfather in Glittervil le, U.S.A.  Young Galahad moved from one jungle to another as he adapts to the slum where his grandfather lives.  As he explores his new home, Galahad uncovers an evil plot to control the city, which is engineered by the Mayor's assistant Creetch.  Senior citizens begin disappearing and Galahad may be the only human who can foil the fiends behind the disappearances.  Quig joins Galahad in Glitterville, teaching him how to talk with the animals.  Galahad uses his unique ability to form an unconventional all iance with the city's cockroach population in order to defeat Creetch.

        "….Nyberg toys with the reader's perception of what is normal and of value….  Like Galahad, the reader sees the arbitrary nature of value when the worth of diamonds and riches pales in comparison to the value of all life.

        "….Galahad Schwartz and the Cockroach Army may not change the public image of certain insects but it will definitely affect a child's attitude toward reading" (http:/



~Ocampo, Manual.  American-Philippine artist, a number of whose “larger canvases include images of roaches surrounded by symbols of the Spanish colonization and Catholic conversion of [his]…native land” (Gordon 119).

~Oltmann, Walter. “Cockroach”; (1998).  Copperwire and tubing: 140x90x17 cm.  “[Well-known] for his labour-intensive wire sculpture which involve processes of coiling, weaving and knotting,” Oltmann, who was born in Natal and now teaches in South Africa, “explores the boundaries between art and cra ft.  His work refers to designs which decorate or are associated with domestic space, space in which past and present coincide and where Western and African cultures connect” (Department of Fine Arts, University of Witwaersrand [] - link no longer working).  Fascinated by “the world of creatures (largely insects),” he has in recent works “ explored objects and insects which occupy our domestic spheres.  By referring to such everyday objects and insects,” he claims to try “to create a frame work for the viewer which is familiar and thereby creates freedom for association.  These everyday… creatures have a direct link to activities, movements and acts which occur in a realm in which family relations and personal identity are expressed.  I hope that I can articulate tensions of ambivalences between private and public, past and present” (Smith).

O'Malley, Kevin.  Leo Cockroach--Toy Tester.  New York: Walker, 1999.
Preschool-grade 2.
"Fans of O'Malley's earlier books will delight in this equally quirky tale with an unlikely hero.  Leo the cockroach resides within the offices of Waddatoy Toys.  Late at night, after CEO Mildred Splatt (who hates bugs) leaves, Leo takes the initiative to test the toys and leave the good ones on Ms. Splatt's desk. Feeling unappreciated…, he says goodbye to his friend, Bernard the cat, [surely there is an  allusion to archie and mehitabel here] and dramatically takes off in a toy airplane to work for competitor Notsogooda Toys….  Much to his surprise, Leo realizes he was better off before and valiantly ventures back.  Some of the humor is subtle, but there is plenty to entertain youngsters.  O'Malley's illustrations are full of great detail; his flair for expression and perspective makes for one likable cockroach.  This bug's-eye view of the business world is a riot" (Christy Norris Blanchette ( - link no longer working ).

Ordoubadian, Reza.  “Kafka's Cockroach.” The Iranian  April 15, 2002 (
“This story is based on Kafka's 'Metamorphosis.'  The three parts correspond to the three sections of his story, and all the characters are taken from real people in Kafka's life, some episodes relating to his biography.”

O'Shaughnessy, Perri.  Whit of Execution.  New York: Delacourt, 2001.
        Kenny, having lost his parents' savings in a .com venture, determines to gamble away the few dollars remaining and then commit  suicide:

He considered burial arrangements.  He would leave a note with instructions.  His father was Presbyterian, his mother a Buddhist.  Go with the Buddhists, he decided.  Better chance postmortem with them.  No nonsense about hell, just another rebirth.  Maybe he would come back as a roach.  A large, insensitive, unkillable, hard-carapaced cockroach like the ones in his dorm at Cambridge [MASS], scuttling at midnight around his PC, ignorant that the warm machine was imagining a new universe [the City of Gold scheme that has ended in his ruin]…. (6-7)



Page, Michael.  Captain Cockroach.  1995 comic book offshoot of David Sim's 1977 feature, now largely on-line ( - link no longer working)

Page, Thomas.  The Hephaestus Plague.  New York: Putnam's, 1973.
I found this popular novel, the source for the now classic cockroach film, Bug, of particular interest because, intentionally or not, Page associates his re markable roaches with earthquake and volcanic activity.  Aristophanes' giant cockroach was brought to Olympus from Mt. Etna which had been known, "from the first third of the 5th century onwards," for its enormous roaches (Davies 11).  Page's human protagonist, Professor Parimeter, becomes obsessed with these giant roaches and their ability to ignite their surroundings.  Even before their appearance, the biologist tells his students:

Man has been on earth in his present form for fifty to one hundred thousand years at most.  The cockroach has been around without change in design for some two hundred and fifty million to three million years… .The roach is so perfect in basic design that evolution is unnecessary.  It flourished during the carboniferous period, the age of jungles and great forests.  (52)

How ironic, then, that his obsession leads him to interbreed these possibly carboniferous specimens with the common German cockroach.  His rationale is that the fire-roaches cannot survive the atmosphere of Earth 's surface whereas the hybrids may be able to adapt.  They do and in the process, their German cockroach mother becomes an appealing character whose abuse during Parimeter's experiments raises reader concern--as finally do her offspring.  These hybrids are super-intelligent as well as dangerous creatures who learn to communicate by spelling out messages on walls with their bodies.  Wiser than Parimeter, they wish only to be freed to return to their subterranean world and their natural life cycle.

Papillo n.  1973.  Mertins includes the film in his list of "movies with relatively minor entomological elements," mentioning that it employs "cockroaches [and] centipedes" (88).

Pelfrey, Matt.  Cockroach Nation Boon.  An apocalyptic drama in which a homeless survivalist predicts the end of the world, encounters Cockroach Boy, a boy who possesses the characteristics of a roach, and becomes the boy's surrogate father.  Besides commenting on the father/son relationship, the play examines society's expectations and chances of survival in the face of an increasingly stressed environment.

Perkins, Penny.  Bob Bridges: an Apocalyptic Tale.  Albany, New York: Chrome Deco Press, 1999.
Bob Bridges, the human hero of Perkins'tale, is collected by a cockroach from the future just before humans succeed in destroying themselves and the planet's environment.  Living in the future world of these giant cockroaches, Bob learns how the insects have evolved to help bring the planet back to a healthy balance, knowing their own species will become extinct when it does.  Their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of the whole is meant as a lesson-hopefully one learned in time-to late 20th  century/early 21st century readers.

Perry, Steve and Ed Solomon.  Men in Black.  New York: Bantam, 1997.
Novelization of the film.

“The Phantom Cockroach.” WSRN Radio Presents May 14, 1995
( - link no longer working).

Pietri, Myron B.  "Suicide Note From a Cockroach in a Low Income Housing Development,"  Puerto Rican Obituary .  New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970.  24-38. poem

Pitts, Myron B.  "The Week."

Polisar, Barry Louis.  Ill by David Clark.  “Oriental Cockroach” and “The Roach.” Insect Soup: Bug Poems.  Silver Spring, Maryland: Rainbow Morning Music, 1999.

Popovac, Gwynn.  Conversation with Bugs.  San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, 1993.

Porizkova, P. and J. Russell.  The Adventures of Ralphie the Roach.  New
York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1992.



Quammen, David.  "A Republic of Cockroaches: When the Ultimate Exterminator Meets the Ultimate Pest."  Outside  May 1983;  Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature.  New York: Schocken/Nick Lyons Books, 1985. 53-58; The Bedford Reader.   Boston: St. Martin's Bedford Books, 1990.  582-585.



Race the Sun(1996).  A feel-good film about eight poverty-stricken kids who build a solar-powered car and the teacher and mechanic (Halle Berry and James Belushi) who get them to Australia to race it in a competition.  While real  cockroaches are not part of the plot, there is “an unforgettable [roach film cameo] moment… --a long, uninterrupted shot of a roach climbing out of a tennis shoe, nimbly working its way across a bag of Cheetos, and stepping onto a surfing magazine, where it alights on a small color photo of a surfboard” (Gordon 136).
Even more important, the car that wins for the kids, named “Cockroach,”is consciously modeled on the mechanics of cockroach movement (noted for its swiftness, surefootedness, and maneuverability) as, in fact, are a number of successful robots (“Behind the Scenes” - link no longer working ).

Ramus, David. On Ice.  New York et al: Pocket Star, 2001.  Original hardcover: Pocket Books, 2000.  Ramus's hero, imprisoned on largely trumped-up charges in “a minimum-security prison camp located in northern Alabama” (1), is woken at 2 a. m. by the rantings of a fellow prisoner:

I stared at the cinder-block wall…for the 10,000 time, the rough pattern… as familiar as the creases in the palms of my hands.  A shiny brown roach scuttled by.  I watched him-antlers bobbing, sudden stops and starts-vigilantly following some unseen trail, searching for crumbs, or maybe a girl roach.
Out of prison because he agrees to help the FBI nab a high-up, Ben Hemmings meets his ex-cell-mate in a “ Cajun joint called Lennox's” (316) where Black orders “shrimp po'boy and a large order of rice and beans”:
Black jumped out of his seat before I could finish the thought.

“What?” I said, jumping up, too.

Eyes bulging, he pointed to the seam where the table of our booth joined the wall.  A large roach was crawling along, minding his own business.

Black made a sound in the back of his throat, but stood there, frozen.

If I'd been in a better mood, I'd have laughed.  Instead, I took a napkin and crushed the thing.

Soon thereafter the two leave, Black having decided he “'Didn't really want to eat here anyway'” (319).  Despite Ben's extermination of the roach, his initial approach suggests a certain empathy with the roach who shares his world.

Reed, Harlan.  The Case of the Crawling Cockroach.  New York: E. P. Dutton,

Reed, Kevin J.  The Adventures of Cockroach Bones.  San Pedro and
        Lomita:  The Tiger's Paw, 1997. 16 pages.  A series of three tales of the great insect detective: “Cockroach Bones and the Spider Woman;” “The Adventure of Tabby Mange;” and “The Adventure of the Sick Napoleons.”

Reed, Kit.  "Sisotopromatem."  (1968)
"Like its title, the plot is a reversal of The Metamorphosis: 'I. Joseph Bug, awoke one morning to find that I had become an enormous human'" (Sims 399).

Reichs, Kathy.  Fatal Voyage.  New York et al: Scribner, 2001.  In the fourth of her Temperance Brennen, forensic anthropologist mysteries, Reichs creates a memorable cockroach encounter.  Temperence is knocked-out, bound, sacked, and left by the Tuckasegee River in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, for later disposal by a mad, cannibalistic meg alomanical adversary:

“My heart rate slowed…, and cogent thought began to creep back.
“It was then the thing crawled across my cheek.  I heard dry insect sounds, felt movement in my hair, then the tickle of antennae on my skin.
“A scream formed in my throat.  I rolled back and forth, batting at my face, my hair.  Blinding pain seared my brain [where she'd cracked her skull on a rock], and my innards jammed up against the back of my throat.
“Quiet! One functioning brain cell commanded.
“Cockroaches! The others shrieked.” (335)

“I kept at my ankles and wrists, yanking, twisting, tugging, stopping periodically to monitor the sound outside my bag.
“Roaches scuttled across my face, their feet feathery on my skin” (338).

Once loose, Temperence encounters a far deadlier foe, her human would-be-killer, and the roaches are forgotten.

“The Relation Between Cockroaches and Panic.”   Anonymous online short story:
( <>)  A man, Appu, finds himself in a mental institution after being seen swallowing a cockroach by his neighbor's dog.  The dog reported Appu to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who turned Appu over to a mental institution.  The cockroach in question had planned the event to revenge Appu's murder of his father with roach spray.  It turns out, swallowing was the least of his crimes against cockroachdom.  Appu has, in fact, exhausted the world's supply of cockroach spray.  In an ironic twist, the revenge-seeking cockroach ends up in a meatloaf served to Appu as part of his delicious institutional diet.

Riantiarno, Norturtus.  Time Bomb & Cockroach Opera: Two Plays.  Jakarta:
Lontar Foundation, 1992.  "Riantiarno's black com edy cast is comprised of the prostitutes, transvestites and gangsters who make up Jakarta's underclass.  The image used on publicity and in the program cover shows "a cockroach crawling into a richly lipsticked mouth," clearly belonging to one of Jakarta' s elite.  Rather than disgust, the audience is to see the cockroach as "the grass roots struggling to survive"(Riantiarno quoted in Zurbachen 130) and the audience is led to see that "these purportedly disgusting insects, instead of signifying filth and being driven from sight, must be welcomed.  Victorious and pervasive, they persist everywhere, from the sprawling marble villas of luxury housing estates… to the immense slums of Tanjung Priok.  The roach should not be counted as a symbol of the lowlife here but rather as a ubiquitous survivor of thousands of fantasies of ultimate extermination" (Zurbachen 146)" (Copeland 1993 233)

Ritchie, Elisavietta.  "The Cockroach Hovered Like a Dirigible."  And a Deer's Ear, Eagle's Song and Bear's Grace: Animals and Women.  Ed. Theresa Corrigan and Stephanie Hoppe. Pittsburg: Cleis, 1990.  "Elisavietta Ritchie writes of a lonely year in Malaysia during which time her marriage of twenty-three years failed.  Through a succession of long evenings as she sat up late at nig ht writing, a cockroach appeared and stayed near her.  The insect seemed to observe her, or perhaps it was merely keeping her company.  She "admired his ability to decamp when threatened; run; survive in a crack; be patient; hide from the searchlight of s un, and then later, resume your station."  And she felt a sort of gratitude for its presence" (Lauck 95).

Robinson, Keith.  "The Cockroach Chronicles."  On-line story that appeared originally in the Hermosa Beach, CA Easy Reader 16 August 1984 and won that publication's Best Fiction of 1984 award.  It's main character, named Gregor Samsa, is not literally a roach.  Available at: ( - link no longer working).

The Rock. 1996.  Michael Bay.  Not a “bug flick,” this adventure yarn teams a biochemist and the only man ever to escape from Alcatraz (The Rock) as the leaders of a rescue mission to defuse the poison gas bomb set to go off there by “a disgruntled Marine general.” As they defuse the bomb, cockroaches serve as the “canaries in the mine.”  Because the human neural system so closely resembles ours, cockroaches would be the best early warning system.  Ironically, this is one of the few works that suggest the frequency with which cockroaches serve as experimental animals, Bug being the exception.

Rodale, J. I. The Cockroach Who Wanted to Go Steady.  Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 1969.

________.  "The Earthworm and the Cockroach: An Ecological Comedy Skit."  ;A Series of Ecological Comedy Skits.  Allentown, PA: J. I. Rodale, 1971.  14-23.

Rosen, Charles.  The Cockroach Basketball League.  New York: Donald I. Fine,
1992.  About a minor-league team: no literal cockroaches except in the places they stay on tour!  See:

Rosenthal, Paul.  Ill. Marc Rosenthal.  “Cookie Crooks.” Yo, Aesop! Get a Load of These Fables.  New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998.  32-37.  Murry, a cockroach, willing to help a dog and cat to get the cookie jar down from a spot only he can reach, is rewarded by being stomped to death by the greedy dog.  The moral of this modern fable: “the weak little roach learned that although the strong may be happy to share the work, they're not always happy to share the prize.  (At least he would have learned if he weren't smeared on the bottom of the dog's paw.)”  

Rukeyser, Muriel.  "St. Roach."  The Gates (1976).  The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser.  New York: McGraw Hill, 1978.  "Rukeyser's 'St. Roach' seems almost the catechism that would prepare the reader for the vision Sexton offers [in her poem 'Cockroach'] and, together, these cockroach lyrics prepare the reader for Gass's housewife in 'Order of Insects'" (Copeland 1993 242-243).



Safina, Carl.   Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival.  New York: Henry Holt, 2002. If you're awake with them [the sea-turtle researchers on French Frigate Shoals in the Hawaiian chain], you learn to avoid the kitchen in the dark, unless you 're fond of flying cockroaches just slightly smaller than skateboards.  Either you will step on one while barefoot, or one will fly across the room and hit you-usually in the face” (332).

Saul, John.  The Homecoming.  “Does for insects what Hitchcock's The Birds did for our feathered friends”-Kirkus Review .

________  The Manhattan Hunt Club.  New York: Ballentine, 2001.  Accused of a brutal attack and rape at a subway stop, Jeff Corwin reconstructs his memory of attempting to aid the victim: “He'd seen the doubt in their [the jury's] eyes as he told them about the man who ran into the ink black tunnel, disappearing with the speed of a Cockroach escaping from the light” (20).  Saul apparently likes the allusion, using it again and again to describe the hunters setting off after Corwin after he too escapes into New York City's subterranean world, “ scurryimg through the pools of light like cockroaches escaping into the shelter of darkness” (91).
        Saul's cockroaches are part of a scavenger quartet that, in a way, seems to suggest nature's balance persists even in that subterranean world.  One by one, the hunters are outwitted by Corwin's human allies, Heather and the Converses, the rats, roaches, and ants:

By the time Keith and Heather had disappeared into the gloom, half a dozen of the creatures were slinking toward the unconscious body.

They [rats] approached it warily, knowing that this kind of animal could be dangerous….

Two of them slithered close enough to sniff at the blood, dipping their tongues into its warm saltiness.

Three more joined them.

So on four more appeared out of the darkness, and another dropped down from a ledge where it had remained concealed from the moment the man had first arrived.

They began nibbling at the man's fingers first, and, when he made no move to jerk away, moved quickl y on to his arms and his face, his legs and torso.  Then, as the skin and flesh were torn away and the internal organs were exposed, the cockroaches and ants began to swarm out of the darkness to join in the feast.

By the time the man in the coal black clo thes died nearly a quarter of his body weight had been consumed by the voracious creatures of the darkness.

He was awake for the last few minutes of his ordeal.
His vocal chords had already been eaten away.
Another of the hunters-a really bad guy-who dies in the subway tunnels faces the same environmental clean-up crew: “First the rats come, then the flies and ants and cockroaches” (281).

Sawyer-Laucanno, Christopher.  “Maktoub.”  Mineshaft  7(October 2001):4-10.
;He turned to reviewing the series of hotels he'd stayed in [Tangier] since that first night.  He could remember four places distinctly, but possibly there had been one or two others.  Each had been succeedingly cheaper and consequently also lower in quality.  The last place had been a horror, just a mattress smelling of urine on the roof of a crumbling pension near the old American Legation.  It had cost six dirhams plus two more for a shower, if the single cold-water spigot in the filthy, dark cabinet crawling with roaches and wate rbugs could have been called that.  He wondered why he'd stayed there so long, why he hadn't come to the trees earlier” (10).

Scarfman (Paul Gadzikowski).  archy the cockroach

~See, Sheena. “Cockroach Door Panel” (2001). Oil on wood.  Sue Medlicott's house, Whately, Massachusets.  In an article in the Boston Globe Magazine, Julie Michaels, after describing Medlicott's house, comments: “Most distinctive are the doors…;each one is illustrated by a local artist.  'So many of my friends are painters and illustrators who live here in the Pioneer Valley, ' says Medlicott, an avid art collector.  In a house with many windows, there wasn't much wall space for hanging art, so she decided to make the doors a gallery.  Each art ist was offered a blank wooden door and a $1,000 fee.  Medlicott told each of them where his or her door was going to be hung…but otherwise, the artists were free to paint what they liked” (28).  Florence artist See drew the kitchen, a door with eight panels.  Michaels mentions her “flies in the honey and a mouse nibbling the cheese” (28) whereas, after my own heart, Northampton reporter Susan Wilson records Medlicott's delight with See's choice of “'household pests.'”  Wilson focuses, as does photographer Gordon Daniels, on the “Cockroach Panel,” quoting See as admitting “'Mine's a little bit eccentric,'” while admitting to “a fascination with 'creepy-crawly things'” (3).  Allowing the roaches to welcome one into the kitchen seems a move away from viewing t hem simply as pests.  Instead, they become fellow dwellers, surely a move toward an ecofeminist vision.

The Sender.  1982.  Mertins includes it among films in which arthropods play "incidental" roles, mentioning it uses "roaches" (88).

Sexton, Anne.  "Cockroach."  Bestiary USA (1974).  The Collected Poems of Anne Sexton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981.  "The sequence was begun in 1972 while she [Sexton] was recovering from 'minor surgery, during which the screws were removed at long last from her mended hip.  Hospitalization,' her biographer Diana Wood Middlebrook comments, 'always opened a motherlode of imagery' (361)."  When that "motherload" is reinforced by Estella Lauter's observation in Women as Mythmakers both that "Sexton's bestiary focuses on th e animal in us" and that "the modern poet's strategy differs from that of her medieval predeccesors in her desire to value the beast in herself rather than to moralize about how to overcome it," to find what Sexton names "'virtue in the beast in me'" (497 ), Sexton's poem is revealed as typically ecofeminist: '"Sexton, well aware that our perceptions often force us to fear, even loathe what we most need, overturns the traditional associations of the cockroach with DIRT, DARKNESS, and MARGINS (Mechling 126-12 7) and holds the cockroach 'up to the light like a glass of water' [the thing we cannot live without].  Thus, as Lauter sees, 'the beastiary is more than a mirror of the beast in Sexton.  It is more nearly a mirror of the various relationships we have to animals' and 'significantly, none of the relationships portrayed…involves rejection of the animal as inferior' (196)" (Copeland appROACHES note 61;1993 242).

________. “Fourth Psalm.”  “Every image in the 'Fourth Psalm' is natural, earthly, and regenerative: daisy, orange, snail, squid, cauliflower, rose, daffodil, dog, carp, Leopard, even cockroach, all are blessed” (George).

shinbone alley.  1971.  John D. Wilson and David Detiege. (archy inspired animated cartoon) (Leskosky 62).  Actually it is a revision of the 1950s musical archie and mehitable.

"The Show-Off Roach".  Episode of  Maya the Bee. TV series.

Silva, Beverly.  The Second Saint Poems.  Ypsilant, MI: BRP, 1983.  Introspective, personal poems reflecting on the poet's California Chicano experiences--romantic involvements, maternal feelings, battles with cockroaches and the welfare system-in an identity quest that culminates in an affirmation of survival values and a broader life awakening

Simmons, Dan.  Fires of Eden.  New York: G. P. Putnam's, 1994.  This historical novel, set in the 19thcentury, takes us on board a sailing ship bound for the South Pacific where we join, among others, Mark Twain and a host of sea-going cockroaches.  Simmons draws on actual accounts of such voyages, including Twain's and Isabella Bird's own journals:

"Keeping a careful eye on the cockroaches, which appeared to be plumping my pillow in preparation for a long nap of their own, I retreated to the upper deck.  It seemed that Mr. Clemens also had planned to spend much of the voyage 'out here where the air has only been breathed once'….

"When I mentioned my disgust at the sight of these creatures, Mr. Clemens agreed that they were 'a fair share' of the reason he had come up on deck.  'My resident cockroaches were as big as peach leaves,' he said, 'with long, quivering antennae and fiery, malignant eyes.  They grated their teeth like tobacco worms and appeared dissatisfied about something.'

"I described the lobster-sized vermin who had laid claim to my pillow.  'I tried to prod one with my parasol,' I said, 'but the smaller of the two cockroaches appropriated the instrument and used it as a sort of tent.'
"'It is best that you declined to do further battle,' suggested Mr. Clemens.  'I have it on good authority that these reptile-sized insects are in the habit of eating off a sleeping sailor's toenails down to the quick.  This though is what gave me an overwhelming hankering to come up and sleep in the rain.'" (66-67)

Simos, Michelle and M. Timothy O'Keefe.  99 Uses for a Dead Cockroach.  Ill. by Dave Mitchell.  St. Petersburg, FL: LaFray Publishing, 1984.

Sims, David.  Cerebus.  Independent comic book, serialized since 1977, featuring Captain Cockroach, a “crime fighter who dressed in a roach costume to disgust his foes.” Originally intended as a parody of Batman, “the cockroach proved so popular that the artist established him as a schizophrenic, with multiple personalities that poke fun at other, more famous comic-book heroes” (Gordon 122)

Sion, Desmond.  "Demons." Tales of the Living, Tales of the Dead.  Singapore. Landmark Press, 1990.

Smiley, Jane.  "Gregor: My Life as a Bug."  Harper's Magazine (August 1992). The Story and Its Writer.  4thed.  Ed. Ann Charters.  Boston: St. Martin's Bedford Books Press, 1995.  1495-1497.
 “Smiley literally recreates the ending of Kafka's tale… . Her Gregor wakes up on the dustheap to find himself liberated from family and apartment.  He discovers he is a real cockroach, his monstrous size and shape the illusion of his own and his family's fears-fears which Smiley clearly associates with the chthonic.  Gregor's ultimate grasp on life as full of possibility-a direction Kafka can only gesture toward given the strength of the patriarchal institutions in his time and place-comes as the 'silver light' of the moon transforms both Gregor and the landscape.  To be accurate, the moon remains constant.  It is Gregor's vision that has changed, allowing him to see the moon'not flat but full of facets like a great diamond' (1497).  The moon is no longer backdrop or setting as it has become for human dramas.  Instead it becomes a part of what Gregor realizes is his own virile 'young body.'In recognition, as will Harington's and Weiss' heroes in similar moments, Gregor

'Lifted his back pair of legs and gave a triumphant buzz of joy.  Sure the world held dangers, but hell, so what?  What was that compared to setting out?  Compared to the actual, bona fide transformation that lay ahead of him now?' (1497).

The images that support Smiley's observations about the flatness of human and the depth of insect perception-moon and diamond-recall the final lines of Anne Sexton's poem 'Cockroach'in which a young woman protects a cockroach in her hand 'like a diamond ring
'” (Copeland 1993 238-239)

________.  Moo (1995).  New York: Ivy books, 1998.
Tim Monahan, a professor of creative writing, asks an ex-lover for a recipe for "black beans and rice"--a dish she knew he considered not only delicious but "principled food."  Bemused, she asks him if he is planning to start cooking and when he replies that he might, she asks why.  He explains: "Well, when I was teaching Kafka in my class a week or two ago, and I realized that the reason Gregor Samsa is redeemed by being turned into a bug is that he learns to live in the physical world, and take pleasure in simple actions like running over the walls of his room or hanging from the ceiling and rocking back and forth.  Being turned into a bug is a step UP for him.  So I think it's time for me to start cooking. I don't know.  To start eating everything with a big spoon.  Simple pleasures" (237).  Most important is Smiley's reading: "The Metamorphosis" is a story about "spiritual redemption" which Kafka sees in terms of living and taking pleasure in the physical world.  Clearly in "My Life as a Bug," Smiley equates the physical world with nature.

Solomon, Normon.  Cockroach: A Novel.  Portland,OR: Out of the Ashes Press,
1974.  Although there are no real roaches in this short novel, Solomon like Waters suggests that American mainstream culture treats those unwilling or unable to fit in exactly as it treats cockroaches, going so far as killing them instead of considering the possibility of coexistence.  In this case the "cucarachas" are two teen-agers on the frin ge of the drug culture.  When Ellie's parents take her to court as an out-of-control child, her lover/friend Boggle refers to the Court as "Pigland Cortex" and hallucinates that Ellie shares her trial with Ken Kesey and "Franz Kafka, a friend of mine from high school daze," who, a line or two later Boggle refers to as "K," the protagonist of Kafka's The Trial (55).

~Sommerville, Travis.  Gregor (1995).  The illustrated insects appear “on book pages printed in Germany, [and] these drawings refer, in the artist's mind, to topic such as 'the history of plagues, their effect on people, society-and its institutions, such as the church.  The…drawing, showing a cockroach borrows its title… from the famous Kafka short story in which a man awakens and finds that he has turned into a giant insect” (Edward Lucie-Smith.  Zoo: Animals in Art [New York: Watson-Guptill, 1998] 320-321).

Soyinka, Wole.  "Conversation at Night with a Cockroach" (1965).  "Soyinka discusses the problem of stopping violence in his poem," structuring it as "a dialogue between a man and a cockroach… .The cockroach speaks for the encouragers of violence, it tells humanity to kill for profit and to continue violence by using lies and treachery."  His voice represents the rationalization of those responsible for the violence in Nigeria at the time (1965) Soyinka wrote the poem and he "uses cockroaches to symbolize this evil… .The cockroach acknowledges its fault and laughs at the useless attempts by the humans to cleanse their land," pointing out that "Man has given into and joined with evil…."  The poem pictures "man at a love feast with the cockroaches,…an unnatural, frightening alliance."

        "The most prevalent symbol [in a poem rich in symbolism]…is, of course, the cockroach.  At once it brings up feelings of subversion, obstinate survival, and disgust, all of which are appropriate associations for the evil that it represents… ..Soyinka finds the actions of mankind to be worthy of cockroaches, not men.  The fact that the conversation is at night…furthers the idea that humanity is lost in darkness."  (Van Ness)

Spiritual Cockroaches.  A web-site dedicated to the work of K[arl] Ungeheuer  (1908-1988).  The name was selected because in an interview with Jared Green, Ungeheuer described the inspiration for his very short stories in terms of "small insects skittering around the walls to the ceiling of my mind….I have nothing to do with their creation.  Their engenderment is automatic and occasionally profuse, like the cockroach" (

Stabenow, Dana. A Fine and Better Snow.

“You killed Dina,” Kate said.

“Ah, my dear mother,” Christee said….

“Why?” Kate said.

“Why?...maybe because my loving mother gave me up for adoption to a couple of people who weren't fit to raise a cockroach.  Tell me, Kate, were you fucked at four?” (185)

________.   Play With Fire.  New York: Berkeley Crime, 1995.
The detective Kate Shugak recalls her professor's introduction to poetry on the first day of her English 101 class at the University of Alaska:

"On such a full sea are we now afloat,

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or loose our ventures.

He closed the book.  'This is poetry,' he said.

"They stared at him, dazed and dumb, more than one with their hearts thudding in their breasts as they traveled back two thousand years from the plains of Philippi to arrive with a thump in the drab, humdrum twentieth-century classroom.

"They were his from that moment and he knew it.

"He picked up the paperback
[Don Marquis' the lives and times of archy and mehitabel], opened it, and read again into the deepening silence.

expression is the need of my soul

i was once a vers libre bard

but I died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach

it has given me a new outlook on life

From the summons of far-off trumpets to the hesitant clacking of typewriter keys was a great distance, but Winkleback bridged it effortlessly with his voice.  There were a few promising snorts and at least one definitive giggle and he smiled to himself and continued.

here is a rat here…
he is jealous of my poetry
he used to make fun of it when we were both human

he was a punk poet himself

and after he has read it he sneers

and then he eats it

They were laughing by then.  He closed the book and said, 'And so is this poetry.'

"'But that was funny,' an incredulous voice protested."

Starship Troopers (1997) "[D]irector Paul Verhoeven's $95 million adaptation of Robert Heinlein's classic sci-fi novel about an army of invading insects from outer space" (Nashawaty), gives us a full-scale war against giant marauding insects.  The special effects are, according to Maltin's 2002 Movie and Video Guide, accomplished with the director's usual style: “it's so sharp, energetic, and (at times) funny that it transcends being a 'giant bug' movie” (1300).



Tagliabue, John.  "William James said the Millenium would not come as long as a single cockroach suffered from unrequited love."  Prairie Schooner 61(Summer 1987): 95.  poem

Test, Kelley Joan.  The Princess and the Cockroach: A Tale of Transformation. North West Publishers, 1996

Tew, Raya Eskola.  How Not to Kill a Cockroach.  New York: Vantage, 1978.

Todd, Trevor R.  The Cockroach that Wrote a Symphony.  Ill. By Thomas Trahair.  Sydney: Methuen, 1979.  Benji Speers hates his music lessons, resenting that his music homework keeps him indoors while his friends are out playing.  Then, having left his pen dipped in ink on the music blank he was supposed to fill, Benji makes a discovery that changes his life as well as the lives of his m other, music teacher, and the famous Australian conductor, Sir Peregrine Ample.  The discovery is a cockroach, apparently emerging from the biography of Beethovan lying on Benji's desk, who is using the drops of ink off Benji's pen to write what becomes in time a beautiful Cockroach Symphony.

Like Weiss's Numbers, the roach seems to have become what he ate.  Unfortunately, before his masterpiece is even finished, he meets the same fate as Kafka's Gregor, smashed by the cleaning lady and thrown out in the trash.  However, unlike either Numbers or Gregor, this roach is mourned by all the humans who had heard his music.  All of them go from roach-haters to roach-admirers.  Sir Ample, who takes it upon himself to finish the symphony and present it to the public , comments to Benji: "He gave the world The Cockroach Symphony, a great piece of music which will [like his species] probably last longer than you or me" (57).  Readers of Harington's The Cockroaches of Stay More  will be startled at the possibility that his Nature's Symphony may have had its genesis in an Australian kid's novel!

Trout, Kilgore [Kurt Vonnegut?].  Venus on the Half Shell (1974). Cutchogue, New York: Buccaneer Books, 1975.

 The Hoonhors, "a people from a planet of some unknown galaxy a trillion light years away [from Earth, and]… .possibly the most altruistic species in the universe," are giant cockroaches.  They spring into action when "a people kill off their own planet," cleaning up ("sanitizing") the mess.  The process begins by salting the planet's atmosphere [with] a substance that precipitates every bit of [water] in the air," creating heavy rains that flood the planet (32).  Earth is in the process of such sanitizing as the novel opens and the hero Simon, like a modern-day Noah, survives the flood to find himself on Mt. Ararat where he meets and joins a Space Traveller whose cosmic perspective helps Simon understand what has happened and sets him on a voyage to the planet of the Hoonhors.

The journey makes the novel an evolutionary/ecological parable in which the Hoonhors function as the essential scavengers who clean up after the creator's--"Its"--mistakes.  There is balance to their role since we learn humans on Earth are "the end of a process that started with cockroach crap" (201). At the end of his journey, Simon meets, not the creator but Bingo, "a hoary old cockroachoid" as old as creation itself (200), who tells him "Our universe and all the others… .are scientific experiments" (203).  "But why?" Simon persists.  "Didn't It know what agony…It would cause sextillions upon sextillions of living beings…?"

"Yes," Bingo replies, cutting off Simon's repeated "Why?  Why?  Why?" with first a belch and then: "Why not?"  The End.

Twain, Mark.  "Results of Kindness to a Cockroach."  Practical Jokes with Artemus Ward, Including the Story of the Man Who Fought Cats.  London: J. C. Hotton, 1872.

_______.  Roughing It (1890).  New York and London: Penguin Signet Classics,
1980.  Reworking of 25 "Letters from the Sandwich Islands" that appeared in The Sacramento Union (1872) and provide creepy crawly detail in Dan Simmons' Fires of Eden (1994).

Twilight of the Cockroaches.  Written and directed by Hiroaki Yoshida.  1987.  "[T]he Japanese 'animation-plus-live-action' film…'concerns an apartment in Tokyo that is infested with cockroaches' attracted by the sloppy housekeeping of a 'batchelor "salary man"' whose tiny flat becomes an urban paradise for the roaches until disaster strikes:  The salary man meets an attractive "office-lady," who moves into the apartment and starts cleaning up,'  employing 'increasingly deadly… poisons and bug bombs in a full scale war to wipe out the roaches' (Reid 42).  Although the roaches attempt to retaliate, they finally rely on their age-old survival skills.  As the cockroach general yells, 'For every one they kill, we'll breed a hundred more!,' Japanese audiences [reportedly] cheer wildly, leading the head of The Washington Post's Asian Bureau in Tokyo to conclude that they approve this projected victory for the ro aches because, like African-Americans [and other minorities], the Japanese respect the cockroach 'as a survivor,…a creature that can take everything the world throws at it and keep on keeping on' (Reid 43)" (Copeland 1993 237).

"Whether viewed as a diverting action film or as an allegory of genocide, TWILIGHT OF THE COCKROACHES is the most original picture of the year.  With its subtle allusions to Hiroshima and Dachau, this comedy has unexpected resonance… .[which will cause viewers to] think twice before getting out the can of Blockade" (Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer).



The Ugly Cockroach.  1960.  Edward Sturlis.  Polish animated cartoon
(Leskosky 62).

U Tam'Si, Tchicaya (Gerald Felix Tchicaya).  Les cancrelats (The Cockroaches).  This novel, the first of a trilogy that has been described as sociopolitical fresco of Tchicaya's native Congo, uses one of the cockroach's many proverbial associations as a recurrent image that becomes a key symbol:  “ Le cancrelat alla plaider une cuase au tribunal des poules” (The cockroach wants to plead its case before the hen's court).  In the last novel of the trilogy, the cockroach images reappear in profusion (O'Grady).



Valdes, Zoe.  I Gave You All I Had.  New York: Arcade Publishing, 1999? Vampire's Kiss.  1988.  "The horror of eating cockroaches is played upon in many horror films.  In Vampire's Kiss… , for instance, the main character believes he is a vampire and so is compelled to consume a very large lively cockroach he finds scuttling around his sparkling clean kitchen stove.  It is shown close up as he pops it into his mouth and crunches satisfyingly as he chews, drawing the anticipated gag from the viewer" (Copeland appROACHES note 46).  Insect-eating, and particularly cockroach-eating, has been associated with the vampire since Stoker's Dracula, but it should be noted that roaches are eaten in many countries, usually called something like Thai Waterbug.

Victor/Victoria.  1982  Mertins includes it on his list of films in which arthropods play "incidental" roles (88).  In "the opening scenes… the Julie Andrews character, starving to death in gay Paris, slips a cockroach she had found in her hotel room into her salad as a ploy to avoid paying for the expensive meal she has consumed.  There is a typical slapstick follow-up as the terrified cockroach makes its escape under the tables and up the leg of a well-endowed female diner"(Copeland appROACHES note 46).  Doesn't the scene establish Andrews like the cockroach as an outsider and prepare the audience for the comic satire assault the film makes on those who judge by outward appearances?

Vesso, T. P. "The Nose."  Tales of the Living, Tales of the Dead.  Singapore: Landmark Books, 1990.

Vonnegut, Kurt.  See: Trout, Kilgore.



Walters, Jesse.  "Cockroach, Who?"  1998.

  "'Cockroach, Who?' is not your father's theater.  In fact, it might not even seem to be your theater at first.  But upon closer inspection, the play reveals some heartfelt points about the fleetingness of life and the pains of growing into it.
"English playwright Jess Walters' words are brought to life by director L. Zane and a sextet of capable actresses.  On a simple level, Walters could be credited simply with writing six worthwhile female roles; however, her work transcends the issue of gender.

"The play revolves around the world as seen by three young South London girls and their elderly counterparts, a trio of elders who work in a laundromat.

"….The contrast between the two groups is intriguing….  The young girls scramble around their empty, desolate neighborhood, searching for their muddled identities while the women passively exist in theirs without change.  Each set lives in frustration due to the aimlessness and sheer pointlessness of their lives, but chooses to deal with it in their own way… spite of their surface differences, the women are all essentially the same.

"….'Cockroach' portrays a gritty, urban setting.  Both Walter's text and the sparse set design mesh to create the sense of hopeless desperation evident among all the characters.  The despondency in their lives mounts with each encounter and each meaningless day that passes…and yet, they manage to go on…..

"The acrid tone of 'Cockroach,' which is pierced by a thin thread of humor, may draw comparisons to the Britis h cult film 'Trainspotting.'  The same feelings of apathetic helplessness are present, and the drug use is equally prevalent as well.  But unlike those in 'Trainspotting,' these feelings are filtered through a young female's sensibility which gives the tale a novel spin…." (Thomas).

Waters, Frank.  The Yogi of Cockroach Court (1946).  Athens, OH: Ohio   State/Swallow Press, 1987.  The only literal cockroaches in this novel share the hovels in which the human cockroaches that are its subjects are forced to live.  They are those who exist on the underside of so-called mainstream society--the poor, the uneducated, prostitutes, and people of color, especially Indians and Latinos--that controls this Mexican bordertown.  At the center of the town is the Plaza de los Cucarachas from which one enters Cockroach Court, "a dim-lit maze of lewd patos and shrieking courtyards… aptly named for the prostitutes who filled its cribs--the unfortunates, putos and parjaritas who were here known as cockroaches" (26).  The novel is their story and how they suffered when prohibition wipes out the cantinas and gambling, the loss of the cotton growers leaves no work for the Chinese, Hindu, "Negro" and Mexican laborers, and the Tong street war dealt the final blow, cleaning "out the plaza of cucarachas.  I saw them myself…. Ugly, pock-marked, diseased and half-naked.  From every back courtyard and crib they poured.  Yes, poured!  The officers had big clubs" (269).

Waters, perhaps best known for his nonfiction Book of the Hopi, has also published a number of novels about the peoples of the West and particularly of the Southwest.  According to Charles Adams, University of Nevada as Las Vegas, Waters is a neglected "'world-class writer'" whose primary theme "is the relationship between pe ople and place."  Adams feels Waters' work is particularly important because "he writes about real people in the least-understood area of the United States.

"While Waters' characters are outside the mainstream…culture, his deep compassion for them reminds readers of the common humanity that unites us all, Adams said" ("Best-known").

~Webb, Dick.  “a part-time sculptor and full-time police officer in Ames, Iowa, Webb 's work captured the attention of the media in 1982, roughly seven years after he competed his first piece-a gag trophy for a target pistol competition, featuring dead roaches on a replica shooting range… .Webb insisted on collecting his own-at the city jail….The freshly-killed roaches are more pliable,…making it easier for Webb to bend into humanlike poses.  For extra durability, each subject received two coats of clear polymer… .before long Webb and his wife were fielding queries from…radio and television producers….Prior to an appearance on ABC's That's Incredible! The Ames policeman invested more than fifty hours… to construct a miniature studio set, with an audience and crew of eighty-eight artfully positioned roaches.  Now retired, Webb is content to rest on his laurels, leaving this potentially lucrative endeavor to the next generation of cockroach catchers and posers” (Gordon 119, 121).

Weiss, Daniel Evan.  The Roaches Have No King.  New York/ London: High Risk, 1994.  "Weiss' cockroach narrator, Numbers, weaned on Old Testament prophecy (He spends the first instar of his life growing fat on the glue that holds the Bible together), tells a tale of survival.  This city cousin of Donald Harington's The Cockroaches of Stay More does not share his country cousin's love of their commensal neighbor,  Homo sapiens.  Numbers' story is about the effort he instigates to save the colony after their human, Ira Fishblatt, a neat but near-sighted civil liberties lawyer, is abandoned by the Gypsy, who is every cockroach's dream of a slovenly housekeeper, and sets up housekeeping with an orderly accountant named Ruth Grubstein (Ah, yes, satire and irony are the cockroach's natural modes of expression!).  As part of his plan to please Ruth, Ira redecorates the kitchen, obliterating the homes and hiding places of generations of Numbers' people.  Numbers has no intention of ending up, like Kafka's Gregor, on the dustheap or out in the street (Though he takes his reader on a tour of New York's streets and sewers that is memorable!).

"Weiss' novel, published in England a few years before it found an American publisher, was originally called Unnatural Selection (London:Black Swan Books, 1990).  The old title refers to Numbers' thinking of the naturally independent cockroach as a colony, a social structure natural to their enemies the ant, and to his attempting to use Old Testament religious tactics to pull his cockroach apartment mates together to reclaim their territory from Ira and Ruth.  Their revolution leads, not to victory, but to a Raid holocaust that shocks Numbers out of his reliance on Old Testament wisdom.  He falls back on the three million years of cockroach wisdom stored in his genes to seek a vengence and salvation more natural to his kind.  Basic in this new scheme is the knowledge of human nature the cockroach has gained over the thousands of years that t he two species have cohabited.

"Weiss's themes are many, but a main thrust is the suggestion that the Hot Zones that may spell human extinction don't necessarily exist in the rain forests we are so busily despoiling.  Little organisms who know our weaknesses far more intimately than do their jungle bred cousins may be seething much, much closer to home
" (Copeland Interactions)

Wells, H. G.  The Food of the Gods (1904).  New York: Berkley Highland Books,
May be the origin of the giant cockroaches of horror tale fame!

The first time Herakeophorbia, the food of the gods, is “loosened” into the environment-by mistake, of course, it causes wasps, rats, and weeds to become giants of their kind.  The second time, it results in giant tadpoles and algae.   

It speedily became evident… that this time there was not simply one centre of distribution, but quite a number….  There was one at Ealing…and from that came the plague of flies and red spiders;…one at Sunbury, productive of ferocious giant eels…; and…one in Bloomsbury that gave the world a new strain of cockroaches of quite a terrible sort - an old house it was in Bloomsbury and much inhabited by the undesirable things. (115-116)

The story thereafter “is one of dissemination” (125), of the evolutionary process by which giantism spreads “throughout the world”: “The Food insisted on escaping with the pertinacity of a thing alive.” Examples of “the obscurer things of life--changed forever”abound: “monstrous weedy thickets,” “thistles,” “cockroaches men fought with shotguns, or a plague of mighty flies” (126).

________.  Tono Bungay.  "the ship abounded in cockroaches"

White, Stanley (with Mel and Frencci River).    The Bugged-Out Adventures of Ralphy Roach.  1992, 1993, 1994. (Gordon 123)

Whyte, Robert.  “Metamorphosis-a Story.”  Summer Reading Collection, Sydney [Australia] Morning Herald  1981 ( - link no longer working ).  Another of the many inversions of Kafka's man who wakens to find himself a monstrous insect.  Whyte's Franz Kafka, a cockroach from a large, proud family, wakes to fins himself a grub-like human, disgusting to his family and himself.

Wild at Heart(1990). Director: David Lynch.  While the plot, though violent and southern Gothic enough, has nothing to do with roaches, there are cameo moments when Cousin Dell's mother finds cockroaches in his underpants and sees him putting a particularly large specimen in his anus.  Somehow these moments seem to epitomize the life-or disrespect for life - the film depicts.

Wild in the City (PBS Nature 1 July 2001 8 p.m.).  Red-tails and peregrine falcons, nesting in the cliffs of New York City, prey on pigeons.  Monarch butterflies feeding in rooftop gardens.  Herons and cormorant fishing in Central Park's ponds.  Stray dogs (no cats), preying mantis and hives of bees, mice and caterpillars.  And in the city's underside-racoons, rats and cockroaches.  Contains wonderful footage of cockroaches in the sewers while the voice over discounts the myth of alligators flourishing there.

Wilding, Michael.  "As Boys to Wanton Flies."  A Taste of Cockroach and Other Stories.  Ed. John Griffin and Warurck Goodenough.  Australian
Association for the Teaching of English, 1974.  14-21 .  Born in 1942, Wilding has taught at universities in England and Australia.  He has a volume of short stories and a novel, both published in Australia, as well as critical works on Milton and Marvell to his credit.

Williams, Alan.  The Cockroach Trilogy (The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati, The Return of the Cockroach, and The Cockroach has Landed).  1981 theatre pieces which form the inspiration for the film, The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati.

Wolheim, Donald.  “Mimic.” (short story on which the film is based: see Mimic).

Woodford, Jack [Josiah Pitts Woodfolk].  Evangelical Cockroach.  New York: Louis Carrier & Co., 1929.  

"A short story..[that] first appeared in 1929 and was later anthologised with a number of Woodford's other short stroies in 1930 and 1950.  It is of interest because it draws on the work by African-American biologist C. H. Turner, who had demonstrated the intelligence of the cockroach in 1912 (Mechling 134).  Woodford makes his human protagonist recognize a cockroach he sees crawling on the back of a pew [in a posh WASP Boston church] as he sits through a boring sermon as a worthy subject for his telepathically projected commands.  The irony of the story is that as he plays with this idea the minister is considering him [the professor] as his own subject for brainwashing" (Copeland aPPROACHES note 54).



Yep, Laurence.  Cockroach Cooties .  Hyperion Press, 2000.  Ages 9-12.
When Arnie, the school bully, threatens Bobby, Bobby and brother Teddy use psychology instead of strength to p rotect themselves.  Insect-loving Bobby discovers the bully's fear of cockroaches and, with the help of their Chinese-American neighbor, an entomologist, and his pet roach Hercules, the two boys succeed, not in defeating Arnie, but in discovering the grim roots of his fear and his behavior.  Their initiation of a cautious friendship (and Hercules' cooperation) breaks through both.  Puts both bullies and bugs against an interesting cultural background.



Zelazny, Roger.  Damnation Alley.  1969.  "Many science fiction writers produced postnuclear playgrounds [like]…Roger Zelazny in Damnation Alley (filmed in 1977), with its mutated, carnivorous, high-camp cockroaches" (Disch 96).

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Prepared by: Marion W. Copeland, 128 Amherst Road, Pelham, MA 01002: