Sunday, November 13, 2016
A Literary Surprise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Despite my being a solid Jane Austen fan, I managed to avoid Karen Joy Fowler's now famous "The Jane Austen Book Club." I thought it was chick lit, and while I have read some, I don't read all. So, when "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" came out, and started being taken seriously as a literary novel, I mentally penciled it in to be read.
Having finally done so, it is time to look at Miss Fowler seriously as a writer. For those of you who have not read Sara Gruen's "Ape House," my suggestion is you read it in tandem with Fowler's book. Start with Gruen , because these are flip sides of the coin of chimpanzees/monkeys in captivity.
When I was a child, there were a series of picture books, featuring photographs of a humanized and clothed chimp named Zippy. Zippy always looked happy, and I immediately was captivated by the idea of having such a creature for a pet.
Fowler's book dispelled this notion for me. I learned that when these animals are photographed or exhibited with happy smiles on their faces, they are actually genuinely frightened. Which bothers me, an animal lover, tremendously.
Much of what is in this book bothers me; the book is a heart breaker, for sure, but it also a tender and moving evocation of a family's relationship with a chimp named Fern, the bond between them, and the consequences and outcome of when that bond is severed.
Fern, darlings, is the most engaging character in the book, even more so than the very cogent narrator, Rosemary Cooke. The tale of her family and Fern is often harrowing, sometimes engaging, and extremely moving.
It will alter your attitude toward simians forever.