Animals Strike Curious Poses, Elena Passarello
Animals Strike Curious Poses, Elena Passarello
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"It might be the best book on animals I’ve ever read. "
— The New York Times Book Review
Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000 year old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the 16 essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalized by humans. Modeled loosely after a medieval bestiary, these witty, playful, whipsmart essays traverse history, myth, science, and more, bringing each beast vibrantly to life.
Elena Passarello is an actor, a writer, and recipient of a 2015 Whiting Award. Her first collection with Sarabande Books, Let Me Clear My Throat, won the gold medal for nonfiction at the 2013 Independent Publisher Awards and was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Award. Her essays on performance, pop culture, and the natural world have been published in Oxford American, Slate, Creative Nonfiction, and The Iowa Review, among other publications, as well as in the 2015 anthologies Cat is Art Spelled Wrong and After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essay. Passarello lives in Corvallis, Oregon and teaches at Oregon State University.
Praise for Animals Strike Curious Poses
“11 New Books We Recommend This Week,” The New York Times, Editor’s Choice
“10 Page-Turners for 2017,” Martha Stewart Living
“The 14 Best Female Essayists to Read Now,” Signature
“Stunning. . . . Passarello’s keen wit is on display throughout as she raises questions about the uniqueness of humans. . . . A feast of surprising juxtapositions and gorgeous prose.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This phenomenal collection documents the lives of particular animals from a wide range of species. . . . Passarello treats her subjects with dextrous care, weaving narratives together in a way that investigates, honors, and complicates her subjects. . . . Passarello has created a consistently original, thoroughly researched, altogether fascinating compendium.”
—Booklist, starred review
"I’ve spent decades reading books on the roles animals play in human cultures, but none have ever made me think, and feel, as much as this one. It’s a devastating meditation on our relationship to the natural world. It might be the best book on animals I’ve ever read. It’s also the only one that’s made me laugh out loud.... [Passarello is] a master of the essay form."
—Helen Macdonald for The New York Times Book Review
“There is an agile intelligence at work . . . as [Passarello] makes connections among disparate elements and wields keen perceptions on the creatures she encounters. There are some real dazzlers. Passarello manages to chronicle humanity's cavalier exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals without getting preachy in the process—no mean feat.”
“A gorgeous and peculiar collection of essays about famous animals and the ways we interact with them.”
—Tin House online
"Passarello is an expert at distilling a wealth of texts into the most essential, compelling statistics or most startling, hilarious quotes…. She explores and interrogates the implications of the many desires and fears we have projected onto animals—the fears they reflect back to us, and the ways we understand the will to live through them."
—Southern Humanities Review online
"Packed with an assortment of facts, myths, and unexpected connections, each of the book’s essays is a deeply researched ride that presents an almost staggering amount of information. But the essays are also highly playful. . . . Throughout, Passarello works as a sort of critical ringmaster, announcing both the sideshow act and our short-sighted desire for it. She entertains as she exhibits our missteps, and points to the ways we project onto—and define ourselves in relation to—animals."
“Animals Strike Curious Poses turns the bestiary inside out, holds the mummified mammoth heart up against our own, and, from the braided ventricles, springboards into intoxicating and animated meditations on our penchant for ownership via naming, our drive to saddle the world and its creatures with our weary, ponderous patronymics, and the attendant and cockeyed faux-fame. This book is a gift to us from one of the best, most important, and most exciting essayists of the 21st century.”
—Matthew Gavin Frank, author of The Mad Feast and Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer
“Let’s face it: animals are interesting, words are interesting. Put them together in arresting match-ups—Mozart and starling, Darwin and refugee tortoise, spider and astronaut, gorilla and lexicon, ‘endling’ and genetic futurist—as Passarello does in this delicious collection, and you get a gorgeous picture of a curious mind engaged beyond self-interest. As she digs around in the animal images buried inside us, she finds that ‘It is as if every animal a human brain has ever seen, it has swallowed.’ And we get to share here this fine and nourishing meal, artfully prepared, with her playful intelligence for company at the table. I am now forever in love with starlings and spiders and . . .”
—Alison Hawthorne Deming, author of Zoologies
“Passarello is resplendent in her encyclopedic knowledge of natural history with a fierce and feral intelligence. Mammoth hunting, spiders in space, the last living tortoise from the Darwin expedition—the magnificent animal essays in this utterly absorbing collection shimmer with complexities about human nature with extraordinary depth and music. The end result is simply superb—a must for anyone who values wisdom served up with verve and a genuine adoration for the creatures with which we share this flawed and dazzling world.”
“Elena Passarello’s wildly inventive, meticulously-rendered meditations are their own kind of perfect animal. This is a hair-raisingly beautiful book.”
“In Animals Strike Curious Poses, Elena Passarello spins fantastic, wondrous, and true tall tales about species big and small. Her essays are dream-spaces of imagery and ideas. . . . This book will leave little doubt that Passarello is one our country’s most gifted young prose writers.”
—Héctor Tobar, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Down Dark and The Barbarian Nurseries
“What Rachel Carson called ‘the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures’ is still one of the most pressing problems of our time, but only a few individual creatures are known to all of us by name. Elena Passarello’s witty, insightful, exquisite essays reintroduce us to these famous animals, and find new meaning in their fascinating stories.”
—Michelle Nijhuis, writer for National Geographic and blogger for The New Yorker