“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.” —Helen Macdonald, 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 sixteen 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, whip-smart essays, from a winner of a Whiting Award for nonfiction, traverse history, myth, science, and more, bringing each beast vibrantly to life.
“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)
“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.” —Helen Macdonald, The New York Times Book Review
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 D rer'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.