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on 12 December 2010
WHAT I DON'T KNOW ABOUT ANIMALS is a sort of dramatized struggle by the author to interrogate herself and push as hard as she can against facile or over-eager assumptions about human relations with animals. The book COULD have been a disaster, as it has no real shape and makes no claim to any specific authority. Instead, purely on the strength of Diski's intellect and brilliance as a writer, it really could not be bettered. Every page is either curious or funny or annoying or disgusting, depending on topic. She is as interesting on her own cats as she is on orangutans, lambs, elephants and experimental chicks. Indeed her description of the orangutan's 'fruit stare' has enriched my life to the point when I would recommend the book for this alone. Her twists and turns on human meat-eating rehearse the arguments for and against in a suitably agonized form. For anyone even faintly interested in human interaction with animals (which must be most of us) or, failing that, for anyone even faintly interested in beautifully written and appealing prose (another sizeable group!) this is one of the year's best books.
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on 23 January 2014
This is an utterly engrossing book about what we might know about animals, about our relationship to them and, incidentally, what that says about us. It is beautifully written - meaning clearly, honestly, with an unflinching, intelligent gaze. Diski doesn't just speculate but investigates, always keeping her own subjectivity in the frame so we feel we are reading a personal voyage too. It is one we all make inwardly from infancy through to the end of consciousness but we don't follow through - she does.
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on 24 March 2012
I have read several of this author's books and always find them enjoyable and amusing. One learns more and more about her life, and although animals do feature in this book their presence is relevant.
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on 20 June 2016
I bought this as a result of reading the various glowing reviews. Perhaps you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... or by its first chapter. The first chapter was grim, depressing, and told in such a cold, callous way, that it did little for me other then make me pity the author's city childhood. It did not make me want to read on. If this is how she intended to wet my whistle, I wonder who on earth this could appeal to. It reads like Cruella Deville's guide to animals. I might skip to the middle to see what the heck the fuss is about, but overall I am completely turned off by this, and will be burning it to make sure none of my kind neighbours pick it up by accident.
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on 5 July 2014
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