Love in Infant Monkeys

Love in Infant Monkeys

by Lydia Millet
     
 

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Lions, Komodo dragons, dogs, monkeys, and pheasants — all have shared spotlights and tabloid headlines with celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Thomas Edison, and David Hasselhoff. Millet hilariously tweaks these unholy communions to run a stake through the heart of our fascination with famous people and pop culture.

While in so much fiction animals exist as

Overview


Lions, Komodo dragons, dogs, monkeys, and pheasants — all have shared spotlights and tabloid headlines with celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Thomas Edison, and David Hasselhoff. Millet hilariously tweaks these unholy communions to run a stake through the heart of our fascination with famous people and pop culture.

While in so much fiction animals exist as symbols of good and evil or as author stand-ins, they represent nothing but themselves in Millet’s ruthlessly lucid prose. Implacable in their actions, the animals in Millet’s spiraling fictional riffs and flounces show up their humans as bloated with foolishness yet curiously vulnerable, as in a tour-de-force Kabbalah-infused interior monologue by Madonna after she shoots a pheasant on her Scottish estate. Millet treads newly imaginative territory with these charismatic tales.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It makes a bizarre kind of sense to pair animals with celebrities, as the PEN-USA Award–winning Millet does in her new collection, since both tend to provoke our sympathy while remaining fundamentally alien. This disconnect proves a fascinating subject for stories where David Hasselhoff's dachshund (which is “not his fault”) inspires meditations on mortality, Noam Chomsky holds forth on hamsters, Jimmy Carter spares the swamp rabbit, and Thomas Edison is haunted by the elephant he electrocuted. Millet's apprehension of interspecies rapport is particularly sharp in “Sexing the Pheasant,” where Madonna's remorse at shooting a pheasant (while hunting in Prada boots, naturally) is mainly symptomatic of her own self-regard. For sheer line-for-line delight, nothing beats “The Lady and the Dragon,” where a Sharon Stone look-alike is lured to the bedside of an Indonesian billionaire who plans to make the movie star his concubine. Millet's stories evoke the spectrum of human feeling and also its limits, not unlike the famous naturalist in “Girl and Giraffe,” who watches as lions and giraffes live out the “possibilities of the world” while hiding in the underbrush: “being a primate, he was separate forever.” (Oct.)
Library Journal
Millet follows her sixth novel (How the Dead Dream) with a collection of stories, some previously published, combining celebrities with animals. In "Sexing the Pheasant," Madonna has not quite killed a pheasant on her Scottish estate and obsesses over her adoptive Englishness, among other things. The titular tale examines Harry Harlow's detached efforts to study his controlled "absence of love" in infant rhesus monkeys. A man at the Wellfleet town dump encounters Noam Chomsky, who is trying to give away his granddaughter's gerbil condo in "Chomsky, Rodents." In perhaps the most surreal and humorous yarn, "Lady and Dragon," an Asian billionaire attempts to win the admiration of actress Sharon Stone by adopting the Komodo dragon who bit her ex-husband. VERDICT Ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Millet's satirical yet sometimes touching stories will appeal to fans of the author's previous novels, especially Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, and to fans of T.C. Boyle's fictionalizations of well-known figures.—Cristella Bond, Muncie, IL
Kirkus Reviews
Short fiction from risk-taking novelist Millet (How the Dead Dream, 2008, etc.). These ten stories aim to erase the distinction between humans and animals. Humans are mostly represented here by celebrities, and Millet uses several real-life episodes of interspecies interaction as her starting point. She considers, for example, Thomas Edison's electrocution of the elephant Topsy and Jimmy Carter's humiliating encounter with a "killer rabbit." An author who has imagined a trailer-park denizen's quest to win the heart of the 41st president (George Bush, Dark Prince of Love, 2000) is clearly not afraid of high-concept fiction, and Millet has in the past handled potentially ridiculous conceits with mastery and verve. This time out, her use of celebrities never rises above a cute gimmick. The first story, for example, is a monologue that takes place inside Madonna's head after she shoots but fails to kill a pheasant on her English estate. The fictional Madge has no internal consistency. This problem runs throughout the collection. Drawing closer to our animal cousins seems to have robbed Millet of her once-prodigious capacity to depict-and to sympathize with-Homo sapiens. It's probably no coincidence that the collection's most compelling character is a dog walker who has intense regard for his charges and little but contempt for their owners. Noble intent, interesting idea, disappointing execution.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593762520
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
10/01/2009
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
4.96(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.52(d)

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