WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson


The Emotional Lives of Animals
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 Who says that wolves show no compassion, that ants are clueless when it comes to rage, that crows don't enjoy a good wheeze--in short, that animals other than humans don't have emotions--demands Masson (My Father's Guru, 1992, etc.) in this entertaining, if undefinitive, collection of soulful animal tales. Who? Well, just about everybody who thinks the scientific method is the last word, or likes to adorn him/herself in furs, or feels the need to dominate--that's who. Controversial psychoanalyst Masson (and coauthor McCarthy, a science writer) doesn't buy their hot air for a moment: The jury's still out on this question, he says, and anybody who claims the last word is full of hokum. Turning from his study of the human psyche to the psyche of animals, Masson comes up with scores of episodes where animals appear to have displayed--through gesture, act, posture, or sound- -an emotional vocabulary, and a wide one at that. The greater part of this book is given over to examples of beastly sensibilities: the tender, protective, and tolerant love of many creatures for their children (``to let them chew on you...snatch your dinner...put up with their noise...you had better love them deeply''); mourning for a lost mate, evidenced by the likes of cows and dolphins; the melancholy of a subdued, whimpering, tearful chimp; the compassion of an elephant trying to aid a mired baby rhino, despite repeated rushes from the rhino's mother. And there are a hundred more examples. In the final instance, Masson admits that these anecdotes are no more proof of animals' emotional life than are those given to deny such emotions--neither rests on the hard bed of fact. But, he argues, aren't they enough to make us reconsider our lab-testing programs or the impulse to be draped in sable? Can a bear appreciate beauty? Maybe, maybe not, says Masson. But when he hears of one apparently meditating on a colorful sunset, he's ready to give the brute the benefit of the doubt. (First serial to Cosmopolitan and New Age Journal; Book-of-the- Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club selections; author tour)

Pub Date: May 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-31425-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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