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Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories Paperback – September 22, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
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Review

"These incredibly crafted stories, with their rare intelligence, humor, and empathy, describe the furious collision of nature and science, man and animal, everyday citizen and celebrity, fact and fiction. Lydia Millet's writing sparkles with urgent brilliance." -- Joe Meno
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press; Original edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593762526
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593762520
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #715,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If I had known that each of these stories take a different point of view on human relationships with animals, I would've picked it up a lot sooner. Each story is memorable and each gives the reader something new to think about. I was appalled to learn that the title story was inspired by a real-life study and intrigued by the possibilities of Edison's obsession with his film of an elephant execution (which is now digitized for anyone to view), but my favorite story is "Girl and Giraffe," because it's just plain transcendent. Not for faint-hearted readers, surely, but an exquisite book.
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Any collection that starts with a story told from the perspective of Madonna hunting pheasant, I will probably love. And while that first story is probably the least like anything I've seen before which, for me, is always a pleasant discovery, the other stories step away from cleverness toward humanity, and it's there that the real rewards are found. Humanity is examined through a semi-tame lion and a giraffe, through a dog walker and his charges ("The poodle was stately, subtle and, like the dachshund, possessed of a poise that elevated it beyond its miniature stature."), through Thomas Edison's obsession with an electrocuted elephant ("This is my gift to you: I will never forgive: Now and forever, you are not forgiven."), through Nikola Tesla and his beloved pigeons, through monkeys tortured for the sake of science ("To know how love works, a scientist must study its absence."), through Noam Chomsky's sadness at the memory of gerbils lost, through Jimmy Carter's regret toward an unsaved cat ("I had no doubt that the rabbit had affected his conjugal performance.") and, in the last two stories, it is found in zoos and aviaries. I love nothing more than the lens of the absurd illuminating the everyday in surprising ways, and this book does that throughout. It is the feeling of being surprised at finding exactly what is expected.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Never mind the formula of springing stories to life using real life factoids about celebrities and animals. Some have found that formula gimmicky, I think it was contriving, and didn't really mind it. My problem is that I feel the stories, or at least most of them, are lacking in depth. A great example is the final story in the book, "Walking Bird", which left me wondering "Is this it?", I never really understood what was the point of writing it. Other than "Sir Henry", there was not a single story in the book that left me wondering what happened next. I never really felt a connection with any of the characters, and didn't feel like I would be interested in reading their complete stories. Other than the underlying animal-celebrity connection shared by all stories, I found this collection very disjointed and plain.

The book is very easy to read, all stories are pretty short and you can probably be done with it in a few hours. It was a Pulitzer Prize finalist too, so there's obviously going to be a lot of people that disagree with my review.
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This collection of short stories has a peculiar mix of celebrities and animals. Some border on charming, such as Sexing the Pheasant (Madonna goes pheasant hunting and has a hilarious inner dialogue, complete with congratulating herself for using proper British slang) and The Lady and the Dragon (a Sharon Stone look-a-like is romanced with a Komodo dragon). Others, particularly the title story, Love in Infant Monkeys are disturbing and leave a bad taste in your mouth. So I guess I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I don't think I found as much humor in it as the author intended. It certainly was an interesting theme to build a collection around.
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Format: Paperback
Lydia Millet has received a lot of praise for her work and is seen by many as one of the best writer's in the U.S. Stepping into her world for the first time with her collection of stories, Love in Infant Monkeys, shows a writer willing to take risks in her material. The collection revolves around animals, be they pets, circus elephants, or even the lions from the movie Born Free. Millet further layers the collection with real life celebrities or historical figures so in the course of the book we see David Hasselhoff, hear the musings of Madonna, learn of the religious leanings of Thomas Edison, and witness a confession from former President Jimmy Carter -- and there are more. Many of the stories are based on true stories of animals with famous people, although Millett takes artistic license and uses them as springboards.

The result is a strong, if uneven, collection with the famous names at times proving to be a distraction and at other times an annoyance. The book opens with Madonna pondering a range of ideas as she looks over a dying pheasant she has shot in "Sexing the Pheasant." The animal here serves as a catalyst for her thoughts, but the focus is on Madonna and her musings on celebrity life, her husband's friends, and her attempts to conquer English phrases. Madonna is such an easy target to make fun of that she is hardly worth the effort; this story could be written by some talented undergrads with a sense of humor.

Such entries are frustrating when you see Millet's skills in a story such as "Sir Henry," a moving tale of a dog walker who is forced beyond his dog world when he suddenly recognizes humanity which rises to the level of, well, dogs. Sir Henry, a dachshund, belongs to a famous performer, but this means nothing to the dogwalker.
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