Book Review: Animals Strike Curious Poses

Mar 10, 2017

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of "Animals Strike Curious Poses” by Elena Passerello.

These days communication ranges the extremes, from a terse 140 character tweet to a massive undigested WikiLeaks dump.  So, it was with unalloyed pleasure that I perused Corvallis writer Elena Passerello's elegant and witty "bestiary" of animal essays.  Even the smooth, patterned cover and embossed endpapers are pleasing.      Passerello's award winning non-fiction gleams with the kind of intellectual curiosity that finds patterns and connections between the most unlikely things.  Her seventeen chronologically arranged essays on named animals begins 39,000 years ago with Yuka the Mammoth and ends with the death of Cecil the Lion in 2015.   She plays with a variety of voices, ranging from Gorilla Koko's bawdy joke to wise and intimate reflections on love by Harriet the Tortoise. One of my favorites explores connections between the assassination of President Garfield, the public's fascination with giant beasts - in this case the elephant Jumbo II - and how varied our ability to adapt to new technologies - X-rays, electricity.  Another traces the influences of Albrecht Durer's fanciful engraving of the rhinoceros Ganda in understanding the interconnections of nature and art.  Then there's Mozart's starling and Skylab's spider, Shakespeare's bear, and the very personal essay on Ringling's unicorn.  And her well researched creative non-fiction even edges over the line into fiction in finishing the Jubilate Agno, Christopher Smart's elegy for his cat. Even the book's title shows Passerello's fondness for eclectic juxtaposition.   Immerse yourself!  It's as refreshing as a shower of intellectual ice water!This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "Animals Strike Curious Poses” by Elena Passerello.