The Book Excerpt

After almost four years, The Animal Book is finally in print!
Here’s what the editors have to say about my essay…

“…Those of us who have shared our lives with animals may recall a time when we ‘lost our eyes’ and thus attained a fuller vision. Perhaps one day it will dawn on us that our dog finds us difficult to communicate with—that the problem was ours—instead of vice versa; we might have realized suddenly what our horse has been telling us all along about the field we tried to force him through. Melanie Dylan Fox has loaned her eyes in this way to the black bears of Sequoia National Park. In ‘Ursus Americanus: The Idea of a Bear,’ Fox examines her responsibility to the bears she has come to know in their trespassed habitat. Like Steeves and other contributors to this volume, she also ponders the etymological and semantic quandaries that accrue to us when we attempt to speak about such knowledge. We must violate ‘traditional grammatical rules’: each bear for example, is a ‘he,’ a ‘she,’ a ‘who’ with an individual temperament, not an ‘it’ or a ‘that’ with merely a species identity.

In the tradition of Herman Melville in Moby-Dick, and more recently, of Loren Eiseley and Barry Lopez, Fox looks at animals through the dual lenses of science and myth. Like Eiseley in the title essay of The Star Thrower, or Lopez in Of Wolves and Men, Fox seems hopeful that some verbal concatenation of empirical detail and mystical insight might inspire the reader’s own exploration and discovery. Her cross-species, social relationship with bears has changed her forever, and the experience she describes is available to all who expand their conceptions of what is possible.”

Hmm. My essay contains empirical detail and mystical insight. Cool.

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