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Animal Husbandry

Animal Husbandry

4.5 10
by Laura Zigman

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HOW CAN YOU UNDERSTAND MEN? FORGET IT. THEY WILL NEVER MAKE SENSE. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND THEM. At least, that' the conclusion Jane Goodall finally comes to after months of trying to comprehend the most baffling species in the animal kingdom: the human male. And no, she's not the Jane Goodall, she's the late-night TV producer Jane Goodall, who, in her


HOW CAN YOU UNDERSTAND MEN? FORGET IT. THEY WILL NEVER MAKE SENSE. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND THEM. At least, that' the conclusion Jane Goodall finally comes to after months of trying to comprehend the most baffling species in the animal kingdom: the human male. And no, she's not the Jane Goodall, she's the late-night TV producer Jane Goodall, who, in her spare time, studies animal behavior - most specifically to understand how and why the man she loves has suddenly, inexplicably jilted her.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Ignore the Rules, forget about the inauspicious misalignments of Mars and Venus, don't even think about the Ten Stupid Things we all seem to do to mess up our lives. What if there were a much simpler explanation for the eternal misunderstanding between the sexes, an answer so painfully obvious that no one has ever seriously considered it until now? In what is sure to be one of the most talked-about fiction debuts this season, Laura Zigman presents a hilarious new take on the ever-confusing courtship rituals of the naked ape -- in terms that even the male of the species can understand.

Meet Jane Goodall. No, not the Jane Goodall. Our urban-jungle Jane is a "recovering monkey scientist," an ex-examiner of primate mating habits. Before she began moonlighting as an expert in animal husbandry, Jane had a job booking talent for a semi-serious late-night talk show in New York City. There she met the new executive producer, Ray, fell in love with his boyish enthusiasm and J. Crew charm (not to mention his washboard stomach), and surrendered to unprecedented conjugal bliss -- all in the space of three short months. But no sooner had she given up her cozy Manhattan apartment to move in with the man of her dreams than she awoke to find herself literally out in the cold -- in a word, dumped.

Sound familiar? Let's see a show of hands: Ladies, has this ever happened to you? Gentlemen, is there anything you'd like to say in your defense at this time?

Inconsolable, brokenhearted, and soon to be homeless, Jane strikes back at Ray the only way she knows how, surprising even herself by moving in with the office Lothario, Eddie Alden. Once installed in Eddie's rough-hewn spare bedroom (a few unusual modifications were made with an ax the night the love of Eddie's life dumped him), Jane settles in to a routine of lonely evenings on her "what-will-become-of-me-couch," sipping Jack Daniels from an oversized coffee mug and obsessing over Ray's emotional cut-and-run. But Eddie, it seems, has a more proactive remedy for what ails him. Jane watches with a mix of horror and fascination as he dons his "lucky suit" (his only suit) and goes trolling trendy watering holes for his "next wife," luring a seemingly inexhaustible procession of Barnard seniors, fashion models, and socialites back to his downtown lair.

Gradually, an idea comes to her: What better way to gain insight into the ways of "this narcissistic subspecies of men, this Homo erectus commitmentphobe" than by studying the group's alpha male? Setting up base camp in her cavelike bedroom, she fills notebook after notebook with her observations. The disturbing similarities between the pattern of Eddie's conquests and that of her own recent affair with Ray -- whirlwind courtship and instant intimacy followed by a dramatic loss of interest -- give Jane the idea that there is something at work here beyond mere coincidence. She begins to skim through newspapers, college textbooks on abnormal psychology, and scientific journals for corroborating evidence, and in a chance reference to the "Coolidge Effect" -- a veterinary euphemism that describes a bull's reluctance to mate with the same cow twice -- Jane makes a groundbreaking psychosexual discovery:

Male animals do not choose their mates randomly: they identify and reject those that they have already had sex with. In the case of rams and bulls it is notoriously difficult to fool them that a female is unfamiliar. Attempts to disguise an old partner by covering her face and body or masking her vaginal odors with other smells are usually unsuccessful. Somehow she is identified as "already serviced" and the male moves on to less familiar females.

What if the same were also true for the human male?

Suddenly it all fits into place. When Jane was a prospective "New-Cow" to Ray, she was alluring, irresistible. Demoted to the status of "Old-Cow," she has only one option: alert the rest of the herd.

With the help of her girlfriend Joan, another recent addition to the Old-Cow corral, Jane assumes the persona of reclusive animal behaviorist Dr. Marie Goodall, "cofounder and director of the Institute for the Study of Pathological Narcissism in Vienna," and successfully pitches an advice column for a struggling men's magazine on the assumption that "men are narcissistic enough to want to read about themselves no matter what is being said about them." Predictably, Dr. Goodall's first article, "The Old-Cow-New-Cow Theory, Allelomimetic Behavior, and the Myth of Male Shyness," strikes a nerve in the collective unconscious, and suddenly the demure doctor is in demand: Oprah, Larry King, Regis and Kathie Lee, Geraldo, even her own Kevin Costner-obsessed boss, are all clamoring for a live appearance.

How will it all end? Will Jane's imposture be exposed? Is there a "fabulous nite of luv with Eddie" in her future? Will Ray see the error of his ways and crawl back to Jane begging forgiveness? Zigman offers no simple answers. Philosophies, like the New-Cow theory, may come and go, but where men are concerned, the first step to recovery is to memorize one simple phrase:

They will never make sense; you will never understand them.

BUST Magazine
Zigman's first novel is the tale of one very, very bitter woman, told with honesty, self-deprecation, and more than a few opportunities to underline passages.
Library Journal
Jane Goodall (not the Jane Goodall) has been duped by colleague Ray at the TV station where they both work. He claimed his fiancee didn't understand him, and Jane did. She falls madly in love with him, and whamo! He drops her like a hot potato. Enter the "Old Cow/New Cow theory" developed by Jane after lengthy research into the mating habits in the animal kingdom: once a bull has mated with a cow, he loses interest in her. Sound familiar? -- Kristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic
It's clever, it's true-to-life...anything that can make you laugh about heartbreak should go on the life-sentence syllabus.
People Magazine
Girl meets boy, boy dumps girl....Laura Zigman siphons off the tears and the curses and by alchemy converts them into laughter.
Time Magazine
Fresh and hilarious.
Washington Post
This clever, engaging first novel proceeds from its narrator's hypothesis that human beings of the masculine persuasion operate on bovine principles.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Great fun, a dog-eared hoot.
A hilarious inquiry into human mating habits.
Sally Eckhoff
When people say that love makes all things new again, they never talk about peeling. Peeling is that inexorable process that starts when all your romantic engines are humming, all signs are pointing straight ahead. That's when he -- it's always a he -- starts to unstick himself. Before you know it, he's peeling himself away from you as if he were a Random Acts of Kindness bumper sticker and you were some mobster's Lincoln. Your skin has a raw patch from where he used to be. He'll never tell you why.

That's what happens to Jane Goodall in Laura Zigman's first novel, Animal Husbandry, and Jane actually does something about it. She is not the famous Jane Goodall of primatology, but a TV producer whose passionate boyfriend proclaims every kind of believable love for her only to wake up one morning looking at her as if she were some kind of wart. After caving in to the common temptation to cry a lot and guzzle Jack Daniel's from the bottle, Jane hits the library to discover the cause of male amatory weirdness. Newly armed with such works as Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, she retires to her cramped bedroom, now dubbed the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Male Behavior, and proceeds to ferret out why bulls need variety and what the desire to replicate one's DNA has to do with her empty apartment and her broken heart.

First she must digest Old Cow/New Cow Theory and accept that however much her guy may have wanted her before, all men really want is a New Cow. Then, with more research, she has to deal with more troubling information: the least common denominators of human behavior (Darwin), the power of self-deception (Nietzsche) and the self-evidently sloppy evolution of desire. Hot on the trail of discovery, our heroine is as keen as an Eagle Scout, as she was the day she discovered the humiliating Coolidge Effect, which explains the male's need for variety. "I stared at the article," she reports. "My heart pounded. My breath became shallow. I started to sweat." Three percent of mammals pair-bond, she discovers. How can we go on?

Jane finds out something she never bargained for, which is that she has to dig impossibly deep, deeper than the biological origins of attraction, to find the roots of her own determination, and of that teasing human predisposition to not just love but to be known. This lighthearted treatment of her journey leaves you with a vague feeling of sadness -- the aftermath of the truest kind of comedy known to man and beast. --Salon Jan. 5, 1998

From the Publisher
"Girl meets boy, boy dumps girl ... Zigman siphons off the tears and the curses and by alchemy converts them into laughter."

"Clever, engaging...continually amusing."
The Washington Post

"Wit, wisdom, and a sure comic voice...this is great fun,a dog-eared hoot."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Product Details

Macmillan Library Reference
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.71(w) x 8.78(h) x 0.88(d)

Read an Excerpt


If someone had asked me a year ago why I thought it was that men leave women and never come back, I would have said this:

New Cow.

New Cow is short for New-Cow theory, which is short for Old-Cow-New-Cow theory, which, of course, is short for the sad, sorry truth that men leave women and never come back because all they really want is New Cow.

The New-Cow theory was not my theory, though I renamed it and refined it for my own purposes. The seed of the New-Cow theory was culled from an article on male behavior that caught my eye, partly because it appeared in a highly reputable newspaper and not in a self-help book with a twenty-three-word title, and partly too, I think, because of the timing, which was about nine months after Ray had left me for no apparent reason and right after I found out that his no apparent reason had had a name all along:

New Cow.

The New-Cow theory was based on several seminal studies cited in the article on the mating preferences of the male cow.

First, a bull was presented with a cow.

They mated.

When the bull was presented with the same cow, to mate again, the bull wasn't interested. He wanted New Cow and this was Old Cow.

At which point the same cow was brought in again, only this time the researchers disguised her slightly -- with a hat or a little dress. And again the bull refused to mate with her because he could tell that she wasn't New Cow. She was just Old Cow dressed as New Cow.

Finally, realizing the bull couldn't be tricked visually, an ingenious ploy was implemented: The Old Cow was smeared with New-Cow scent. Smelling New Cow, the bull got up and crossed the barn to get a better look.

But he was no fool. This wasn't New Cow.

This was Old Cow incognito.

Old Cow in sheep's clothing.

Mutton dressed as lamb.

If someone had asked me a year after Ray and I first met what I thought about why men leave women and never come back, I would have told them a lot of things to substantiate the New-Cow theory.

Like how some male insects hold out a big wet, gooey ball of food to lure a prospective female, then take the uneaten portion with them after copulation to use to attract another prospective female.

Or how the lag time between rats' erections can be significantly decreased when a new female is thrown into the cage.

And how the males of most species will attempt to copulate with almost anything that even remotely resembles a female: a male turkey with a female turkey head; a male snake with a dead female snake until redirected to a live one; a male bonobo with a cardboard box or a pretty zookeeper's big rubber boots.

Old Cows think they know everything about everything.

But no one asked me then.

If someone asked me now, I would have a different answer.

I would roll my eyes, look toward the ceiling, raise both hands and shake them toward the heavens the way old Italian women do, and say this:

It is not for us to understand.

That's what people who have given up say, and, I suppose, I was one of those people. And maybe I had given up because I came to realize that men didn't leave all women and never come back.

They just left me.

My name is Jane Goodall.

Not the Jane Goodall, but sometimes I think it was my name that led me from men to cows, from cows to monkeys, and then to all my research and theories. Everything has meaning, no matter how seemingly random or insignificant; everything leads us to something else: a blink of an eye, a kiss, a facial expression, a particular combination of words, like I don't love you anymore or I'm in love with someone else now, are all clues to be deciphered, analyzed, interpreted. At least that's what I, Jane Goodall, monkey scientist, once believed.

But I am not a monkey scientist anymore.

I'm a recovering monkey scientist.

You'd think, with all the twelve-step recovery programs out there -- with all the touchy-feely, all-embracing, anti-enabling groups of people meeting five times a day, hugging one another and telling one another their first names and their excessive-eating-smoking-drinking-drugging-fucking stories -- that there would have been one for me. One measly, pathetic group of two or three equally obsessive-compulsive monkey scientists who would have listened to my sapien-simian rantings and understood.

But no. In order to rebuild my life -- or, actually, in order to get a life -- I had to quit my personal version of animal husbandry cold turkey.

I had to come up with my own recovery program.

I share it with you now, in its entirety, in case you might find it useful:

They will never make sense; you will never understand them.



Nothing makes another Old Cow cry more than a good Old-Cow story. Their Old-Cow story.

You start telling someone your tragic little tale -- how Cow met Bull, or Bull met Cow, or Bull met Bull -- and before you can get to the part about the hat and the little dress, they interrupt you and start telling you their story, and before you can say, "Hey, what about me?" they're waving for another drink and repeating what they were told when they were in your condition.

This is how it usually goes.

Broken hearts mend, they say.

Time heals all wounds, they say.

Have another Wild Turkey. Trust me, they say.

Then, when you don't trust them, and you won't, because you trusted before and all it got you was two fifty-minute sessions a week, you play with your straw and lean back from the table. Because here come the human body arguments, the parade of mending limbs, near-invisible incisions, minds learning to rewire themselves -- tangible proof of the body's amazing ability to recover, to heal, to forget.

But you already know about those metaphors. You've watched the same science documentaries, sifted out the same small stones of truth. You know how bones bond stronger in the broken places, like glued dinner plates; how scars spread over split skin and fill in the cracks like soft spackle; how memories die slowly and quietly, taking their light with them like stars. They're the familiar rationalizations you once told others and now refuse to tell yourself.

When all else fails, which it will, because no one can trick you into parting with your pain for even an instant -- it's all you have left now, besides the shrink bills -- they pull out all the stops.

Time wounds all heels, they say.

Maybe he'll come back, they say.

I think I'll have another Wild Turkey, they say.

My God.

The things people will say to make themselves stop sobbing.

For me it was the word time.

At the beginning I tried to imagine what it would be like when time had passed and I was over Ray -- at night when I couldn't sleep, I'd close my eyes and try to picture all those days and months, all the passing seasons and the changing light, rushing ahead like some time-lapse film clip.

But there are some leaps the mind can't make.

Those nights with my eyes closed I learned many lessons.

That kissing the perfect washboard stomach is not something you can be expected to forget overnight.

That there is a high-interest layaway payment plan for passion: one year of pain for every month of pleasure spent.

That most of the things men say turn out to be lies, even if they don't mean them to be, and even if they never admit it.

That there is something different in the eyes of lost-boy men -- a certain sadness, a need, a tenderness -- which can make you forgive them almost anything.

There was more.

I learned a lot that year after Ray left me.

Like how to tell my Old-Cow story without sounding too much like Glenn Close.

I can do that now, almost, after two years. And a hundred and ninety-two sessions.

There's not much good you can say about sensory-deprivation weekends and therapy except that they give you time to get your story straight.

I came up with several Old-Cow stories, actually, several different versions of the same truth that I could pick from, like wines, depending on my mood and the nature of my audience.

This was one:

Cow met Bull.

Cow and Bull mated.

Bull dumped Cow.

The veni, vidi, vici version was another:

Bull met Cow.

Bull mated Cow.

Bull dumped Cow.

This one was classified for my own case file:

Cow met Bull.

Cow thought Bull was attractive in a shy, muscular, fineboned, J. Crew sort of way but assumed, since this was New York, that he liked Bulls too. So Cow did a little digging and found out that Bull did indeed like Cows -- in fact, he had a Cow, a difficult and demanding vegetarian Heifer to whom he was engaged.

But while they were away on a business trip together, Bull told Cow how unhappy he was with his Current Cow -- how they didn't really have much in common and how they barely mated anymore. Cow was intrigued, but she didn't get up and charge -- she had heard this line before, and besides, given her last two experiences with emotionally enyoked males, there was her new golden rule: No more Bulls with Cow complications.

However, Cow liked the way Bull looked in his button-down shirts and ties and the way he was always pushing his wire-rimmed glasses back up his nose. She liked that he grew up on Long Island and that he rode his bicycle to work from the Upper West Side and that he wore the same dark-green rubber field coat every day. So a few weeks later, when Bull asked her to meet him for a drink, Cow got up and ambled toward the barn.

Like an idiot.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There are few things people distrust more in this world than an Old Cow's Old-Cow story, no matter which version it is, so I just want to say now, before I go any further, that I know you don't believe me.

You may want to; you may, in fact, believe that I believe what I'm saying is true, but inside, to yourself, I know what you're thinking.

That it was me.

That I did something wrong.

That it was my fault.

If by that you mean that I mistook lust for love, that he never loved me, that I was a fool, then perhaps you're right.

Maybe I did.

Maybe he didn't.

Maybe I was.

Sometimes I don't believe myself either.

But if you mean that it was my fault for misreading the situation -- that if you had been me, you would have been able to tell the difference, that you would have been able to distinguish the lies from the truth, that you wouldn't have believed, to the depths of your soul, to the very core of your being, that this was, positively, unmistakably, at long last, love -- then, for you I have a different version of my Old-Cow story, a version I didn't tell you about.

It's the one I almost never tell anyone -- not even myself -- anymore. It isn't glib and bitter and well rehearsed like the others, and, more importantly, it isn't tearproof. Sad, sorry truths almost never are.

Ray and I met.

I fell in love.

And for a brief moment in time, when he was in my life and I was in his, the world became a very different place.

And when he left, and when it was over, and when I realized, finally, that he was never, ever coming back, it broke my heart.

Meet the Author

Laura Zigman grew up in Newtonville, Massachusetts, and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She spent ten years in New York City working in book publishing, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Animal Husbandry is her first novel. She is also the author of Dating Big Bird.

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Animal Husbandry 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Animal Husbandry is perhaps one of my favorite books. Though I've read and bought the book some time ago, I never had the chance to review. My input: clerverly written with witty dialogue and interesting detail. Zigman is able to capture the one thing many people don't want to talk about: fear of lonliness and betrayal. How does one cope with being alone?

Jane Goodall falls in love only to be dumped. Why do men leave women, or more specifically, why do men leave her? learning various facts about the male species, in general, answers still alude her until a scientific article appears in the paper: Bulls. The Old Cow-New Cow Theory is born. Jane experiments with Eddie, her pathalilogical womanizer of a co-worker/roommate, and discovers something she never thought possible...herself.

Guest More than 1 year ago
After turning the last page, I thought it was my own life-dissected and written down. Not a self-help book, but it helped me. Not an autobiography, at least not of my commitmentphobiac tomato seed, yet so accurate. I recommend it to the every past, present, and emeritus member of the Cow-meets-the-Bull Club.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my all time favorites! Zigman explores al of the truths about the way males act in relationship to women! A definet must read for all us single young women!!:O)
Guest More than 1 year ago
When the movie Someone Like You came out, it looked terrific. I figured I'd read this book before going to see it. What a disappointment! I did not care for all of the scientific 'reasons' for why Jane was dumped. All of the cow language got old very fast. I certainly felt bad for her, but this was one of the slowest books I've ever read. I forced myself to read to the end just to see if anything good would happen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Great characters, feel good, funny novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
2 years after being dumped, still moping, I came across this book and expected it to be one of those run-of-the-mill types. Turned out I didn't put it down till I finished it, and surprisingly ended up with a smile on my face, through all the tears. My life has not been the same since I stopped looking for answers thanks to this book :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Zigman does such an outstanding job creating the 'Old-Cow-New-Cow' theory that one begins to believe it is an actual scientific theory. A great book to curl up with at night and read until you fall asleep. I admire Zigman and the obvious effort, hard work and research she put into writing this book. I can't wait to read her new book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was hilarious. I have never read a book so emotionally honest and close to the heart. It is a good read for anyone recovering from a broken heart whether it happened yesterday or 10 years ago. She takes an honest look at the irrational thinking and behavior that we all have experienced during recovery. I recommend it to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing!! I found myself e-mailing and telephoning girlfriends constantly because I knew we could all relate to the 'Old-Cow/New-Cow' theory. Women, this is a must read if you are striving to gain a better understanding of the male species. You'll laugh and shake your head in understanding from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book by accident in a 'I am going to forget about him and keep myself busy' jaunt to the library. I enjoyed it so much that now, in another attempt to forget about another him I am forced to read it again. And to also share it with my friend...I am sure that any woman I share this with will enjoy it as much as I since we have all gone from new cow to old cow in less than a year.