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You're an Animal, Viskovitz! Hardcover – May 21, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Viskovitz, Boffa's intrepid hero, is not, as the title declares, an animal; he is many animals, reincarnating 20 times as 20 different creatures in 20 smart and wickedly funny satirical fables. Trained as a biologist and skilled as a storyteller, Boffa, who looks to animals, as so many have before him, for insights into human nature, has concocted a scientifically accurate, gleefully sexy, and philosophically mischievous improvisation on Ovid's Metamorphoses. Whatever form Viskovitz takes--a dormouse who lives only to sleep and dream, a rebel snail who falls in love with his own reflection, an alpha elk too busy fighting off predators and rivals to be able to mate, or a scorpion who wants to live in peace but whose instincts force him to kill--he is an incurable and hapless romantic. Forever pondering the meaning of life, he falls madly in love with Ljuba, an elusive and wily female in each of her incarnations, and is outsmarted by his beloved over and over again. "Who am I?" asks Viskovitz the chameleon. He is us, whispers Boffa. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (May 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375405283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375405280
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,746,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Shi on January 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I am a little in awe of what Boffa has pulled off in these parable-like stories. His anthropomorphized critters suffers pangs of love, stabs of jealousy, strains of thwarted desire, as passionately as any human Romeo/Juliet, yet still remain true to their critterly natures. From the noblest elk, to the lowliest sea-dwelling sponge, everyone is consumed by the quest for love, and the irrespresible spirit, Viskovitz, stand in the center of it all.
The author's genius lay in endowing his animal characters with just enough human attributes balanced with their "natural" concerns (i.e., a dung beetle still needs to roll you-know-what), and write the tales with aboslute deadpan seriousness.
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Format: Hardcover
Some years ago, philosopher Thomas Nagel published his now-famous essay, "What Is It Like to Be A Bat?". He concluded that we can't fully comprehend the mental processes of another creature. Boffa may accept Searle's pronouncement on bats, but this Russian-born biologist has worked it out for twenty other species. In this treasury of witty "autobiographies", Boffa examines various animals' lives. In these lively episodes he demonstrates the various manifestations of one "Viskovitz" as spider, snail, mantis or microbe. In sometimes wonderfully lyrical language, Boffa recounts Viskovitz' quest for his true love, "Ljuba" and the turmoils and travails this multiple personality must endure.

Biologists know all animal life [and perhaps a few plants!] is driven by the "Five Fs" - Feed, Fear, Fight, Flight and . . . er . . . reproduction. Boffa rearranges the queue to put the last up front. As twenty different species, not all of them definably male, Viskovitz uses every opportunity to continue the line. His quest to mate, especially with the love of his choice, consumes him in each guise. His sense of mission may seem extreme to some, but the tales clearly represent what has been learned from studying life. Boffa recounts the many rituals various species go through in attracting mates. Africa's dung beetle Viskovitz goes beyond mere collecting and posturing. He becomes a monopolistic entrepreneur, determined to overwhelm any competition in his desire to win the beetle Ljuba. The resolution of that courtship is a priceless example of what "diversity of life" truly means. Identity may be hidden in some remote aspect of an organism.

Ljuba, primary object of desire, isn't the only influence on Viskovitz' life. There is Zucotic, who might be Viskovitz' alter ego.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Poor Viskovitz! No matter what kind of animal he is, no matter how he tries to court the beautiful and elusive Ljuba, he encounters problems. In each of these twenty creative stories, Viskovitz and Ljuba metamorphose into different kinds of animals, including bees, pigs, fish, scorpions, and dogs. As an elk, Viskovitz spends so much time defending the females of the herd against the other males that he finds no time for his beloved Ljuba. As a mantis, he literally loses his head over the treacherous Ljuba. As a sponge, he is affixed to a rock and cannot reach Ljuba, the object of his affection. As a lion, he is hopelessly in love with the gazelle Ljuba, which is an impossible relationship. As a finch, he must protect Ljuba's eggs from the cuckoos.
This book is not only funny, satirical, witty, and surprising, it is also informative. Alessandro Boffa is a biologist, and through these imaginative tales you will learn interesting tidbits about the physiology and behavior of animal species. And one more thing: you will gain insight into the vagaries of the human condition as well. Highly recommended for a quick and fanciful read.
Eileen Rieback
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Probably the funniest and most cleverly conceived little book I've ever read. It takes an Italian/Russian biologist to have the sensibility and breadth of knowledge to credibly "inhabit" so many members of the animal kingdom. Driven by a primal obsession to mate with the super-hot Lujuba (as field mouse, scorpion, elk, sea sponge, etc.), Viskovitz gives us a grand tour of the hopes and frustrations of multiple life forms from the perspective of a hilarious menagerie of characters. My wife and I read it out loud as we cruised from Eugene, Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico, happening upon the scorpion chapter as we passed though their native habitat.
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Format: Hardcover
All in all a good book, but not five stars. Clever, smart and crazy Alessandro lost me near the end as I thought it got to be a little much with all the witty aphorisms. He got a bit over extented or maybe it was me, not knowing cotyledon, ctenidium, pneumostome, proximal, ocelli, I could not hang with him like the five star people.
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Format: Hardcover
in this compendiu of fables for the 21st century, boffa has created a hilariously delightful set of tales that will leave one in splits while reading and yet, if one were so inclined, leave the reader with enough to ruminate over in vacuous times.

boffa writes with delightful humour that is a joy to behold. each story is about a certain animal named viskovitz and his love for a certain lubja. viskovitz & lubja assume the roles of a multitude of creatures from the animal kingdom.

on the whole, this book comes highly recommended for anyone who loves great writing and quirky humour.

one of my discoveries of the year.
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