You're an Animal, Viskovitz!

Overview

In this wickedly hilarious collection of fables, Alessandro Boffa introduces us to Viskovitz and his never-ending search for his true love, Ljuba. As he changes from a lovelorn lion to a jealous finch, from a confused dung beetle to an enlightened police dog, Viskovitz embraces his metamorphoses with wry humor and an oftentimes painful sense of self. As an ant, Viskovitz fights his way to the top where his egotism calls on the colony to create a monument to his greatness out of a piece of bread. As a mantis, he ...
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Chast, Roz New York, NY 2002 Hard cover 2nd printing New in new dust jacket. SHIPS FIRST CLASS UPGRADE from NJ: 2-3 DAY DELIV( US); GIFT-ABLE as NEW LATER PRINTING, FAST ... DELIVERY; NEW w/DJ NEW AS SHOWN THIS COVER Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 192 p. Vintage International. Audience: General/trade. 8949 8949--Orig publ in Italy as Sei una bestia, Viskovitz in 1998. A wildly modern riff on Ovid's Metamorphoses--a whirlwind of ironic fables in which the hero, Viskovitz, continually changes identities in pursuit of his one true love. A snail with two sexes, a parrot who speaks of love, a dormouse who has erotic dreams, a police dog who's a Buddhist, a microbe with an inferiority complex, a lion in love with a gazelle, a chameleon hoping to find himself, an intestinal worm, a dung beetle...Viskovitz is each of these animals and many more, possessed by their behaviors, their neuroses, their vanities. And the gorgeous and impossible Ljuba, the object of Viskovitz's desire, is in turn a sow, a bitch, a gazelle. Th Read more Show Less

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Overview

In this wickedly hilarious collection of fables, Alessandro Boffa introduces us to Viskovitz and his never-ending search for his true love, Ljuba. As he changes from a lovelorn lion to a jealous finch, from a confused dung beetle to an enlightened police dog, Viskovitz embraces his metamorphoses with wry humor and an oftentimes painful sense of self. As an ant, Viskovitz fights his way to the top where his egotism calls on the colony to create a monument to his greatness out of a piece of bread. As a mantis, he asks his mother what his father was like, only to hear, "Crunchy. A bit salty. High in fiber." Unfortunately, when he meets Ljuba shortly thereafter, he follows his father's fate. And as a scorpion, his uncontrollably deadly efficiency meets its match in Ljuba and finds "no way to escape this intolerable, sinister happiness."

Ovid's Metamorphoses, says Madeleine Foray, "changes in the hands of each new translator and adapter." Her introduction to a new edition of Arthur Golding's 1567 English translation of the Metamorphoses shows how he Christianizes Ovid, transforming his temples into churches with spires. The translation was influential with Shakespeare and Spenser, but its bombastic style later fell out of fashion. One recent editor complains that Golding turned "the sophisticated Roman into a ruddy country gentleman with tremendous gusto and a gift for energetic doggerel."

A few years ago, the sensual savagery of Ted Hughes's Tales from Ovid won wide acclaim. Meanwhile, novels like David Malouf's An Imaginary Life and Jane Alison's The Love Artist have built their narratives on what little we know of Ovid's actual biography. In Malouf's book, Ovid finds and civilizes a feral child, in a clever reversal of the people-to-animal transformations of the Metamorphoses. Most recently, Mary Zimmerman's award-winning play Metamorphoses presents the work as a parable about the healing power of love.

By contrast, Alessandro Boffa's comic novel, You're An Animal, Viskovitz!, sees metamorphosis as a cosmic bad joke; the hero is figured as a different animal in each chapter. During his time as a snail, he acts out an undignified parody of the Narcissus myth; Viskovitz is attracted by his own reflection in water, but the consummation makes for one of the oddest sex scenes of recent years: "I felt the warm pressure of the rhinophor slipping under my shell, and a strong agitation froze the center of my being."(Leo Carey)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this delightful, clever debut collection of interrelated tales, Boffa employs a variety of living creatures to demonstrate human foibles and folly. Rapidly morphing from larva to ant to Buddhist police dog, Viskovitz, the book's charming protagonist, enjoys a variety of incarnations that allow him to thoroughly explore the human condition. In one tale, Viskovitz assumes parrot form and engages in a maddening yet hilarious dialogue with other parrots that resembles Zen-tinged slapstick. He learns the perils of love and lust as an elk when, assuming the mantle of Elkness, his waking hours are spent defending females, leaving no time for propagating the next alpha male. In the Mojave Desert, Viskovitz the scorpion adopts the patois of a western gunslinger, leaving a trail of dead scorpions in his wake along with dry observations about the nature of survival. Over all these stories, the figure of Ljuba looms. Whether shark rat, praying mantis or sow, she shines with a luminous beauty as Viskovitz's romantic beacon. Seemingly doomed to pursue her, he encounters her in every form, and true animal passion boils on the page as she bewitches and inspires him. Boffa's writing crackles with humor (What was daddy like? Crunchy, a bit salty, rich in fiber) and wonderfully worded descriptions, lovingly translated by Casey (author of Spartina, winner of the 1989 National Book Award for fiction). Boffa's training as a biologist is readily apparent; the precise physiological details he provides for each embodiment of his protagonist rings with technical precision. Whimsically combining scientific lingo and specific biological argot with candid vernacular, he creates a series of engaging dichotomies of high and low, sacred and profane. (May 28) Forecast: This is sophisticated humor in a playful package, and could attract a cultish following. Booksellers might set it alongside last season's Postmodern Pooh by Frederick Crews, which should attract a similar set of readers, though its satire (of academia) is more direct. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
What a Wild Kingdom Viskovitz lives in! In 20 fables he is bound by the laws of a tough Mother Nature to eat and be eaten, love and be loved, live and die. Viskovitz follows the urges of his species, always searching for his true love, Ljuba, aided and/or hindered by his pals Zucotic, Petrovic, and Lopez. He is variously a dormouse awakening reluctantly from hibernation, a snail that falls in love with himself, a praying mantis who loses body parts for love, a finch with a cuckoo problem, an elk with a harem to protect, a dung beetle who just hates manure. The science is detailed and accurate, the attitude wry. As a mantis he asks his mother what his father had been like. "Crunchy, a bit salty, rich in fiber," she replies. As a sponge, every sponge around fertilizes him. "Damnation," I cursed. "Damnation! Even my daughter had gotten me pregnant. I was my own mother-in-law. Damn it, my own mother-in-law!!!" Finally, as a microbe in the Precambrian period, he learns that to kill and devour others is good-it's called heterotrophic life. And so he eats Zucotic the bacillus, Petrovic the vibrio and Lopez the spirillum. He becomes an animal but learns the final lesson-death. Boffa's tales are witty, satirical, amusing, and full of wisdom. You will never look at a dung beetle the same way again. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, Vintage, 159p., Ages 15 to adult.
— Janet Julian
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375405280
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/21/2002
  • Edition description: 1 AMER ED
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.52 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Read an Excerpt

From Italy, a wildly modern riff on Ovid’s Metamorphoses—a whirlwind of ironic fables in which the central hero, Viskovitz, continually changes identities in pursuit of his one true love.

A snail with two sexes, a parrot who speaks of love, a dormouse who has erotic dreams, a police dog who’s a Buddhist, a microbe with an inferiority complex, a lion in love with a gazelle, a chameleon hoping to find himself, an intestinal worm, a dung beetle . . . Viskovitz is each of these animals and many more, possessed by their behaviors, their neuroses, their vanities. And the gorgeous and impossible Ljuba, the object of Viskovitz’s desire, is in turn a sow, a bitch, a gazelle. There is an animal passion between them that lasts from story to story, but it is the fullness of the human condition that is portrayed most vividly in these hilarious metamorphoses.
Dazzling beginnings lead into plots full of surprises, ranging from slapstick to Western, from cautionary tale to thriller. Scientific jargon is turned into wordplay and witty aphorism; theatrical reversals and philosophical insights abound.

You’re an Animal, Viskovitz! is a triumph of comic inventiveness and intelligence unlike anything we’ve seen before.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 3
How's Life Treating You, Viskovitz? 5
But Don't You Ever Think of Sex, Viskovitz? 15
You're Losing Your Head, Viskovitz 24
You're Getting a Little Cuckoo, Viskovitz 27
You've Got Horns, Viskovitz 37
All That Glitters Is Not Gold, Viskovitz 45
What a Pig You Are, Viskovitz 55
You've Made Progress, Viskovitz 62
And What Did She Say, Viskovitz? 71
The Less Said, the Better, Viskovitz 74
You're a Prickly Fellow, Viskovitz 80
You've Made a Bad Name for Yourself, Viskovitz 91
Who Do You Think You Are, Viskovitz? 100
You've Found Peace at Last, Viskovitz 105
How Low You've Sunk, Viskovitz 124
Blood Will Tell, Viskovitz 126
You're Looking a Little Waxy, Viskovitz 132
You Look Like You Could Use a Drink, Viskovitz 142
These Are Things That Drive You Wild, Viskovitz 145
You're an Animal, Viskovitz! 154
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