From witness to provocateur to crackpot, Masson appears only marginally interested in winning over new souls; this is...

THE PIG WHO SANG TO THE MOON

THE EMOTIONAL WORLD OF FARM ANIMALS

This time out, Masson divides his time between intelligently speculating on the emotional range of farm animals and overreading the evidence to draw unsupportable conclusions.

In his fourth work on the complex emotional lives of animals (The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, 2002, etc.), the author marshals his supply of anecdotal, literary, and scientific evidence in the service of farm animals. And again—with his standard caveat: “How can I, or anyone, know what an animal is really feeling? Of course we are guessing at the specifics”—he presents a compelling case for their distinct feelings and modes of expression. As an advocate for animals, a stance increasingly overt in his work, Masson calls for an end to “farmed” animals, their deeply unethical exploitation and death. He understands that he is overshooting the target to make a point about factory farms when he reminds us that eggs can be gathered from chickens under suitably ethical conditions. The problem is, Masson starts overshooting at will: “We have a strange relationship with cows,” he declares sweepingly. Who exactly are “we”? A picture of a pig and the moon, he avers, “is photographic evidence of her special affinity to music.” Really? A sow disturbs a farmer at work; he whacks her flank with a hammer; she chomps his leg without inflicting injury: “She had a sense of justice,” Masson asserts. Maybe. Maybe she just wanted to taste the farmer's trousers. Statements like “humans . . . will fall into a coma and die at 23,000 feet,” while the lordly goose soars much higher, desperately need qualification. Humans can also speed-climb to 29,000 feet without supplemental oxygen. They can fall into a coma and die at sea level, too. So can geese. What's the point?

From witness to provocateur to crackpot, Masson appears only marginally interested in winning over new souls; this is exclusively for the converted. (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-45281-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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