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.
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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 Meta
morphoses. 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 SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved