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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Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

A FIRE STORY

A new life and book arise from the ashes of a devastating California wildfire.

These days, it seems the fires will never end. They wreaked destruction over central California in the latter months of 2018, dominating headlines for weeks, barely a year after Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, 2009) lost nearly everything to the fires that raged through Northern California. The result is a vividly journalistic graphic narrative of resilience in the face of tragedy, an account of recent history that seems timely as ever. “A two-story house full of our lives was a two-foot heap of dead smoking ash,” writes the author about his first return to survey the damage. The matter-of-fact tone of the reportage makes some of the flights of creative imagination seem more extraordinary—particularly a nihilistic, two-page centerpiece of a psychological solar system in which “the fire is our black hole,” and “some veer too near and are drawn into despair, depression, divorce, even suicide,” while “others are gravitationally flung entirely out of our solar system to other cities or states, and never seen again.” Yet the stories that dominate the narrative are those of the survivors, who were part of the community and would be part of whatever community would be built to take its place across the charred landscape. Interspersed with the author’s own account are those from others, many retirees, some suffering from physical or mental afflictions. Each is rendered in a couple pages of text except one from a fellow cartoonist, who draws his own. The project began with an online comic when Fies did the only thing he could as his life was reduced to ash and rubble. More than 3 million readers saw it; this expanded version will hopefully extend its reach.

Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3585-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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