This, the tale of a young girl’s struggle to create meaning, is not a young girl’s book. It is a book for adults, a cautionary story about the chaos we weave and for which we must ultimately bear responsibility.
Its heroine, Pira, is the not-so-quiet centre at the book’s heart. What to say about Pira? In describing her, I’m driven to cliché: a tough shell guarding a tender, hidden heart—a heart that can be, and is, wounded. But Pira herself is no cliché. She is, in the author’s own words, “Ix, the jaguar girl!”
by Martin Rossander
How to Keep a Human, as told by Amaruq
Kaimana Wolff, 2010, Motley Crew House
Bedtime stories for puppies by Grandpaw Amaruq (whose name means wolf in Inuktitut) necessitate a certain credulity in the reader, while simultaneously nudging to the surface folk memories at the mere literal description of a good wolf howl. People of European ancestry may yet harbour an indelible hang-over of the mystical powers attributed to the terrifying werewolves of history. The eerie wolfish way of announcing the pack’s presence alone will surely cause goosepimples and hair to rise on the back of one’s neck! Countervailing that is our everpresent curiosity and inclination to probe, excitedly, both wildlife and wilderness—anything not of human making.Are the brain cells and nervous systems of humans and other animals more similar than different? Do both wolves and humans entertain flows of thought, daydreams, nightmares? Wolff must think so, for Amaruq rides shotgun through the book, as central, first-person character, the one who gives form and substance to the narrative of the story of how he convinces a human to move to the True Woods, and of their adventures on the way. Amaruq’s greatest achievement is the domestication of a human ape, who proves to be a most benevolent and accommodating servant—butler, chauffeur, and all-around provider. Food, shelter, medical care, travel, companionship and meeting the rich and famous—all benefits flow to Amaruq, but for a price. Amaruq must forego hunting instincts and the chasing of cats, whatever their color; he must avoid dog fights and yet defend and protect that human at the other end of the beautifully braided royal purple leash.
The Philosopher and the Wolf
Mark Rowlands, 2008, Granta
Reality seems never quite good enough for Americans, still saddled with the romance of the Wild, Wild West. Mark Rowlands, an unlikely philosopher professor in Florida, subtitles his “moving and unsettling memoir” (London Review of Books) of his life with wolf-hybrid Brenin “Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness.” He starts his disarming tale by characterising Brenin’s genetic lupocanine background as “96% wolf” as if he shared his life with a genuinely wild animal.I spent a fun hour imagining how many matings, and what kind, would actually produce puppies that were 96% wolf, before deciding it would have required an impossible number of wild, out-of-control interspecies parties in the woods over too many years to have been faithfully recorded. Besides, Brenin’s beautiful face on the cover of the book proclaims more than 4% malemute. I know that face. I’ve lived with wolf-hybrids over four decades, and that’s what Brenin was—a wolf dog. This does not take away from the fascination and wonder of Rowlands’ book. He tells the often hilarious story of his life with Brenin, intermixed with remarkably readable discussion on major philosophical questions: what are humans really like? What makes us unique? What is happiness, time, love (philia), death? While traditional philosophy is often a great soporific, Rowlands’ unfolding of thought, ably assisted by Brenin, is as energising as a blast of fresh air from the woods.
by Eva van Loon
Two very different books about coming down to Earth, about what life is really like for us humans. One locally authored; the other recommended by omnivorous local reader Martin Rossander.
Right Relationship is massively important. Even if a degree in economics is the last thing you’d ever want, or you glaze over in two-point-five seconds hearing yet another explanation of why your money is worth so much less today than yesterday, you’ll want to master the premises of this book.I’ve long held a suspicion that economics is just a subset of human behavior, that all talk of how money behaves belongs either in an insane asylum or in departments of psychology. Martin Rossander claims money does not exist. Watching capitalism crumble while “free” trade squanders Earth’s treasures, some think he’s right. What economics has ignored too long is the real cost of our “productivity” and “innovation” to habitat, health, and our souls—not to mention the other beings with whom we must share this planet. Economists have failed to acknowledge that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the biosphere.” Climate change, overpopulation, soil and water loss, species extinction, invasive species, pollution, deforestation, dead oceans, poverty, hunger, and the collapsing economy are all signs of pursuing wrong relationships. “Economics is about access to the means of life” and we humans are totally dependent on the well-being of the living planet. Brown and Garver argue for a life-centered economy: “A thing is right when is tends to preserve the integrity, resilience and beauty of the commonwealth of life. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” By means of dialogue and truth-seeking, a long-held Quaker tradition, we can achieve right relationship with the commonwealth of life.
by Eva van Loon
Avatar: My usually tough-minded daughter cried twice. The film made Townsite parking difficult for the first time since I’ve been here and put a smile on theater-proprietress Ann Nelson’s face quite possibly never seen before. Even an old fart like me plans to see it again…seeing this film in three-D would almost be worth a trip to the Big Smoke.Seems like one helluva movie…until you hear people playing Film Critic: “It’s racist—the Noble Savage all over again.” “It’s just a stupid fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. It reinforces the whole white Messiah thing.” “Dances with Wolves in space. Another white guy has to save the natives from the bad guys.” Wo! It may be just a movie, but it sure brings out the sneer in some people. Protest too much? The Wolf at Twilight: This thick but easy-flowing book I received for Christmas from someone who knew me for a wolf nut but hadn’t apparently spent so much as a micro-second between its covers. There’s not a paw print in this book. It’s about a white guy, author Nerburn, who’s been exceptionally close to the “Indians” (as Americans still say), getting wisdom from a First Nations elder (the wolf). Been there; done that,I thought, unwrapping it, but it’s the thought that counts. Was I mistaken! Every morning over coffee I reached for that dratted book and two weeks later was reading as slow as possible so it wouldn’t end. One helluva book.
by Jana Pierce-van LoonWitches in the Kitchen (2006) by Blair and Anne Marie Drawson is a fun, fanciful and down-to-earth romp thru a year in the life of a Junior Witch by the name of Ivy Prickle Tree. Ivy is a young Witch who has failed cooking at school, so she is sent to her Aunts Nettle and Thistle to be taught Kitchen Witchery. We follow Ivy throughout a whirlwind year at her Aunts’ place, celebrate seasonal holidays such as the Solstices and Equinoxes with her, and learn a little bit about Witches in the process. Witches in the Kitchen is accessible and informative for all ages. It is easy to understand without falling into the simplicity trap, and its characters are lovable and fun. Blair Drawson is an award-winning illustrator, which shows in the book’s artwork. The book was done collaboratively between Blair and his wife, Anne Marie, though she sadly passed away while the book was being put together, and did not get to see it to fruition. You can see her as a character in the book, and in the dedication at the back. Altogether enjoyable, Witches in the Kitchen gets 4 bookworms out of 5.