cover image Animals Strike Curious Poses: Essays

Animals Strike Curious Poses: Essays

Elena Passarello. Sarabande, $19.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-941411-39-1

Passarello (Let Me Clear My Throat) traces stories of famous animals and how they reshape our thinking about humanity in this stunning collection of 17 brief essays. Some read as traditional essays, such as her mediations on the need for new language in an age of mass extinction, the way that artist Albrecht Dürer’s wildly inaccurate rhinoceros prints influenced popular imagination in 16th century Europe, and the author’s personal encounter with a deformed goat who was billed as “Lancelot, the Living Unicorn” by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1985. Others are more genre-blending: Passarello inhabits the mind of Charles Darwin’s pet tortoise and imagines Koko the signing gorilla retelling the infamous “Aristocrats” joke in her limited vocabulary. Passarello’s keen wit is on display throughout as she raises questions about the uniqueness of humans. Perhaps the most stunning work is her bricolage timeline of murderous elephants in America, which aligns their crimes and executions with the rise of electricity and capital punishment. The entire collection satisfies through a feast of surprising juxtapositions and gorgeous prose. (Mar.)