BEG

A RADICAL NEW WAY OF REGARDING ANIMALS

A big-hearted and well-meaning rehash of vital but hoary arguments urging decency toward animals.

The well-turned ground of humans behaving inhumanely toward animals is turned again, without any significant updates.

Co-author of the best-selling Skinny Bitch series, Freedman draws readers’ attention to the many iniquities animals suffer at the hands of humans. They are legion, and many people have altered their lives to distance themselves—or actively fight against—the many abuses: factory farms, poorly run circuses and zoos, rodeos, dog racing, bull fighting, slaughterhouses, stock pens and the behind-the-scenes cruelty visited upon animals used for print advertising, TV commercials and shows, and movies. The author makes many solid, if shopworn, arguments, but in the less blatantly cruel areas, her thought can be muddied or mixed: “I think there is something arrogant about spaying and neutering animals...until we have a better solution to the horrific problem we created, I will spay and neuter my companion animals and encourage others to do the same.” We are also informed that, “P.S. Unfixed animals spray stinky piss all over the place.” Freedman provides some interesting and depressing statistics (more than 100 million animals worldwide “are subjected to nightmarish experiments every year” and 27 animals died during the filming and production of The Hobbit), as well as a helpful list of nonprofit organizations that help animals (not just PETA, but the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary and the Stray Cat Alliance), but she paints with a broad brush—e.g., condemning all zoos when there are plenty of humane versions around the world.

A big-hearted and well-meaning rehash of vital but hoary arguments urging decency toward animals.

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7624-4954-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

Categories:

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

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

A quirky wonder of a book.

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. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Close Quickview