They have been everything from our food to our clothing, existing alternately as our adversaries, companions, jokes, or gods. And yet animals are leaving the world—both as physical beings and as symbols. In Zoologies, Alison Hawthorne Deming seeks to answer a vital question: What does the disappearance of animals mean for human imagination?
With a mixture of humor, reverence, and curiosity, Deming paints a vivid portrait of the world that made us, and the wisdom we are losing as so many of its creatures fade away. Ranging from the Serengeti to Madrid to her own backyard, she considers what a pack of hyenas can teach us about human bloodlust, how the work of leafcutter ants complicates human art-making, and what elephants can tell us about the deep reverberations of peace and war in our communities. The resulting insights are as surprising as they are inspiring, unveiling an entirely new dimension to the great extinction currently unfolding around the earth.
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Praise and Prizes
“Alison Hawthorne Deming makes connections between the unknown and the possible, creating a kind of understanding that is different from the observable.”
“Alison Deming writes with scrupulous and merciful passion about every kind of relatedness—family, place, politics, and wildlife. Her prose is rich in feeling, carefully detailed, and intimate. These essays, free of pieties and polemics, speak about love and the continuance of nature with humane moral fervor.”
“What she is is a poet, like Thoreau, with an ability to see things in context—an ability cultivated with commitment for Alison Hawthorne Deming conceives of nature not only as what goes on in the woods, but as what goes on in our towns and cities, our back yards, ourselves.”
“Alison Hawthorne Deming combines aesthetic splendor with serpentine intellect and wry humor.”
“To read Alison Hawthorne Deming is to be astonished by a truth never before seen, even though you might have been in that exact place, looking at just that forest road; to feel grief not as pain but as water; to wonder at the power of language in the hands of an artist who believes in the world the way a sculptor believes in wood; to be grateful that there has come onto this Earth a mind so lively and so beautiful as Deming’s.”
“However much or little you think of animals, you’ll never feel the same after visiting this literary menagerie: Each essay leaves you mulling the meaning of biological life—including ours—long afterwards. The beauty and ease of Alison Hawthorne Deming’s prose would do her namesake forebear Nathaniel proud, a heart this wise gives me hope for my own species.”
“What are animals to us? And what are we to them? Alison Hawthorne Deming sinks her teeth into these mysteries and more in her sparkling Zoologies, and seems to illuminate everything in the nexus between the animal and human. This is the best bestiary I’ve seen in ages. Reading it I felt a little more alive.”
“Alison Hawthorne Deming is one of the wisest and most humble—of all the animals. She speaks for the whole kingdom while they patiently listen. She is our femme sage.”