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on July 9, 2015
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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on October 11, 2016
Very new and interesting story it is.
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on September 28, 2010
it's true that I started studying Biology, and then switched to Design - maybe that's why I still have an interest in the animal world. But absolutely, you do not need to know cotyledon, ctenidium, pneumostome, proximal, or ocelli to laugh out loud by reading this book. You just need to be curious about how animals live their... not so normal lives. Absolutely genius.
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on October 31, 2013
This book is the funniest! I wanted to have it in my iPad and share it with my friends and family.
I am familiar with the paper version.
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on April 25, 2015
An unusual humorous, light read.
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on April 16, 2011
Bold concept exquisitely realised (and translated). The saga of life in a nutshell; how long till it achieves the classic status it deserves? If Animal Farm was the classic of totalitarianism (if it now seems 'bleeding obvious' we've partly Orwell to thank) Viskovitz is surely the classic-in-waiting for our own unidealistic era, the continued existence in which of the Darwin-deniers only underscores the absolute centrality of Darwinian ideas to our world-view.
And guys, the biological language is intended to bamboozle, to 'blind you with science' - some of it's even made up (real or not, I loved the fauna in the penultimate chapter). Another must-have for schools - a fun read and a good starting point for debate philosophical, ethical, scientific.

An equally jolly-but-deadly-serious read is Gwyneth Lewis's Hospital Odyssey (it rhymes, but let that not put you off - like Viskovitz's, her travails are Everyman's)
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VINE VOICEon June 12, 2007
Move over Aesop ... meet your 21st century reincarnation. Well not exactly - Aesop is more heuristic; Boffa is more satiric. Yes, the vocabulary can be daunting - "sessiliflore oak" isn't a phrase I encounter daily (weekly, monthly or even once a decade or two). But the use of such technical language of biology is extremely well done. When the meaning has to be understood, the context is always sufficient to allow one to understand. When the meaning doesn't need to be undestood, the technical vocabulary serves to keep the reader rooted in the prespective of the current reincarnation of Viskovitz.

The tales themselves use a variety of traditional techniques. Some play on folk sayings - one in love having lost their head is illustrated by a praying mantis. Others play with religious texts - subtle suggestions of God when Viskovitz is a microbe. Others play with cultural sterotypes - the very Buddhist retired narcotics dog that is a junkie himself.

These humorous tales are the best literary "folk tales" that I have read since Ramer's Bt-Little Pictures. Highly recommend when you want a good laugh at human foibles.
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on May 18, 2004
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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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. There's Lara, who may play substitute for the elusive Ljuba. In one case, the delightful Ljuba is replaced by a new, even more attractive mate, who happens to be a cardboard cutout. And, there's Viskovitz' relationship with his own parents, who- and what-ever they may be. Antecedents, as in any family, bear strong influence on how the current generation behaves and what they might expect. Inquiring about what his departed father was like, he's informed: "Crunchy, a bit salty, rich in fibre" by his preying mantis mother. Gender identity is vague among some creatures, and Viskovitz' relations with snail and sponge families makes delightful reading. But, so does the whole book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on January 28, 2003
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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