Grim, Goth Neverland

The Child Thief

BROM EOS, HARPER COLLINS, 2009

And again, we see the Pan — savior, scourge, and child-thief. Stealing kids from the mundane realm, he spirits them off to a world of adventure and death. As J.M. Barrie himself notes in the unexpurgated Peter Pan: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out…” Thins them out. From those words, Gerald Brom conjures up the bloody side of Neverland; in his reinvention of Peter Pan, Brom turns the crowing Lost Boy into an eerie psychopomp.

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The Moral Lives of Animals

wp-24_reviews_01The Moral Lives of Animals
DALE PETERSON, BLOOMSBURY, 2011

Apes, Rules, and Natural Law

Presenting academic knowledge to a not-necessarily-academic audience can be difficult for even the best writers. Zoology is not as obscure as, let’s say, quantum physics, but still presents challenges. Dale Peterson is a fine writer for such a job.

He understands the science very well, partly through his own research as well as through his personal friendship with Jane Goodall. He also has a doctorate in English, which means he understands storytelling, narrative, and words. Indeed the very first chapter in the text is about words: especially words which describe moral ideas, and assign moral standing to one thing and not to another. But the same opening chapter is also about stories. He opens with a personal story about being chased by an angry elephant through a thicket in western Africa. He also explores his thesis through other, better-known stories. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, probably the finest love story about a man and a whale ever written, features prominently here. Melville’s story is about human characters with radically different attitudes about what that whale might be thinking, or even whether it is thinking at all. It’s a very good choice for a story through which to explore Peterson’s topic. So if you don’t have much of a background in biology or anthropology, have no fear.

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