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VOICES FROM THE APE HOUSE

A pleasing gathering of distinct personalities and unique stories from the ape house.

A gorilla keeper’s memoir about her years (1982-1996) at the Columbus Zoo.

Armstrong began her career when zoos were on the cusp of rethinking their mission and their responsibilities regarding the animals in their care. It was a roiling time in the zoo community, with new ideas challenging traditional practices. Early on, the author found her niche in the zoo’s ape house, where even the simple chores gave her pleasure as they brought her close to the gorillas. In a comfortable, conversational writing style, she composes short, crisp stories about her encounters with the great apes. She eschews the chart, table, and figure approach of behavioral research, instead relying on a purely anecdotal telling of her real-life experiences with the gorillas. One of her first lessons was that keepers serve as the first advocates for the gorillas in captivity. Armstrong chronicles the processes of introducing hay for nesting and providing playthings for entertainment and structures to climb on and swing from. Today, when many zoos have created entire habitats for their apes, these elemental changes may seem negligible, but they were the first steps in fashioning suitable environments in which the apes could thrive rather than just survive. Armstrong was in the forefront of exchanging experiences with other zoos around the world, developing a network of relationships that spread advances made in gorilla husbandry and zoo management. The zoo’s philosophy became “Do the right thing for the right reasons,” guided by insights from the ape house: “Never ever presume anything; the gorillas will tell you through obvious and not so obvious ways what they want, what they need. Never bring your presumption to the fore as that will predictably get someone hurt, either a gorilla or a keeper.” Though the author’s discussions of zoo management are mostly engaging, the most heart-touching material is found in the profiles of the gorillas.

A pleasing gathering of distinct personalities and unique stories from the ape house.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8142-5571-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Trillium/Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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