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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars

on 9 August 2017
More wolves, fewer dogs. An enthralling story with some interesting takes on philosophy. Wolves seem to be a preferable evolutionary path than apes. Humanity will blow it.
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on 16 July 2017
Profound, intense, beautiful book
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on 29 January 2016
An interesting book to read and enjoyable.

Having lived more than a decade in Zimbabwe, England and France respectively I feel qualified to add that the ape mind is not the only one. Clearly anglo saxon (or northern?) - the mediterranean (or southern?) modification might be something for nothing rather than all you can get; and the African mind is altogether more generous. Much of my life has been a long hard fight on all fronts and I realise my thinking reflects that in a tendency to cover all options asap and give no quarter: particularly in comparison with friends whose thinking is very graceful and supple and or peacable: there are apparently various 'minds' and 'brains' and ways of developing a considered/cultured/open/lucid/kind mind?

(This is a lovely quote - about David Bowie - something to aim towards?
In a statement released last week, Mr Renck said: 'One could only dream about collaborating with a mind like that; let alone twice. Intuitive, playful, mysterious and profound.
'I have no desire to do any more videos knowing the process never ever gets as formidable and fulfilling as this was. I've basically touched the sun.'
Or he could bring this experience to everything he does?)

Add in Jung and integration and you aren't stuck with what you have got and have an anima animus for extra info and leverage. Ages since I read Camus but I remember he ended feeling that wemust imagine that Sisyphus is happy?, and feel sure that with a child in the house, this kind of intrinsic value to day to day life and its vicissitudes is evident.

Several of MR's arguments were interesting - 'though for me the respect of property is not a premise for further inequality but an equality of itself: I feel able to say to anyone that I ask them to respect my few belongings as I respect their (sometimes) many, and his description of extreme philia was a mirror image of the crucifixion (and resurrection?): which I understand as agape. Looking at the starry sky seems more a swept away by beauty than a rational experience, and the cairn of Brenin a gift just to be (joyously) accepted. A manifestation of love.

But I enjoyed reading it, it read well outloud too.

I grew up with cats and that more 'lucid' and less 'dominant' culture than that of dogs/wolves.

When I read The Myth of Sisyphus the phrase that has followed me ever since is (the mood of Return to Tipasa and from it) 'Love is not justice but justice is not enough'. And from the Q&A session from his Nobel Prize speech which is published in some versions: take the bitterness without becoming bitter and retrun to the world having won that light. (Camus was existentialist but not nihilist).

Don't we learn grammar to speak (communicate precise meaning) and similarly with philosophy/religion/ethics/theology/all art to live 'live' - Mr God this is Anna by Fynn and Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia Axline and the Almond Bough in Twice Seven Tales by Barbara Picard, and My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara (and others) set me on my way as a child and found their adult equivalents and opened other vistas.

Story is so informative.

I also liked these ideas ( ie any discipline alone is not enough?):
As an astrologer, let me be the first to admit that the Cosmic Science alone is not enough; it is not a strong enough foundation of wisdom upon which to build the house of consciousness in the current world. Astrology -- practiced as a discipline -- is a great teacher, and a magnificent mirror within which to view our progress through the cosmos. But as you grow and learn, I recommend you work at all times with three major taps into the sea of wisdom: one that is very old, one that is very new, and one that you just really like. The lyrics of your favorite band, the words of your favorite poet (get one of those), the visual comments of your favorite artist (get one of those too), a friend over 50, a friend under 20, the Tao Te Ching, the Tarot, the pattern of the rocks in the driveway -- they all count as distinct possibilities. The field of new awareness is wide open to you now, and just in time -- your old ideas have never disintegrated faster.
(Mar 1999)
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on 23 January 2015
I read this after I had read a subsequent book by the same writer. I had been intrigued by his 'adoption' of a wolf. The story of their relationship is interesting, but I don't think I will be the only reader who considers the writer completely mad to do what he did. Also, I find it rather abhorrent that he named his child after his 'wolf brother.'
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on 14 August 2016
Fascinating. I have read this book 5 times now, because the ideas developed are sometimes very deep. To those who care understanding them, that is. Marc Rowlands has given words to thoughts that I have had throughout my life. I have felt myself "tuning out of human kind" because I value more the silent loyalty of the pack than the "incessant chattering and scheming of the ape". I completely agree with Marc that "a dog is your friend; a human can only really be you ally". I agree that humans tell a lot of stories (bulls***) to themselves to justify their sometimes ominous actions and the root of those stories is to be found in the need to give a moral base to those actions. Never mind the superficial and dishonest criticisms I have read about this book: read it. Several times, as some concepts are not trivial (especially the philosophical ones). True, this is not a training guide for those who want a wolf. But then the title gave that away. It is obvious that the critics of the book in these reviews have not read it as they fall in the same type of philosophical fallacies that are denounced by Marc. It does not really matter though. Those who want to understand the basis of the special relation between wolves (and dogs) and humans should read this book, as I think it explains those reasons very well. The others, well, they are free not to read it.
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on 19 August 2009
This is an incredible book, extremely moving, contains a lot of philosophying but is never boring. The author cleverly mixes philosophy with narrative creating a remarkable book. I imagine animal lovers will get the most out of this book but I urge everyone to read it.
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on 8 May 2017
A young philosopher buys a wolf cub - almost on a whim - but trains it well enough to be able to pass it off as a large dog.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this book - even though it should be a straight five stars for me. I love dogs and I'm fascinated by wolves. I am interested in philosophy and the subtitle (about love and death) takes in the two topics - beyond dogs - which interest me most. So why three stars?

Rowlands warns us in the introduction that he is only going to tell part of his story - the bits that relate to the wolf which he calls Brenin. In some ways that's fine but he doesn't tell us anything in a chronological order which makes the story hard to follow. There are gaping holes - like why he is drinking a bottle of whiskey at one sitting and why he is so isolated (which having a wolf living with you will only make worse).

He also explains that the book is written around essays that he's already written where he takes a particular philosophical issue like the difference between groups of apes (from which we are descended) and a pack of wolves. The result is that we get chunks of Rowlands life with Brenin which fits the theme and for much of the book I felt it was light on wolf and heavy on philosophy (and the sort of philosophy which seemed to spark his academic interest rather than the sort of philosophy which I could use in my own or my clients life).

However in the last two chapters, where he has to cope with Brenin's increasing infirmity and whether he should put him through invasive and painful treatments or not and the impact of his ultimate death, I found the combination of personal story and philosophy worked really well. Theory and personal experience clicked into place and provided one of the most moving and life changing reads ever.

So if you're looking for something to expand your mind, buy it. If you're looking for an amusing story about owning a wolf, you will probably be disappointed.
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on 9 November 2015
This had the makings of a great book if Mark had stuck to telling the reader about the joys and delights of living with a wolf and his love for his furry buddy. Instead he attempts to blend philosophy into the narrative as a means of discussing some of the important questions in life. What soon becomes apparent is that this philosophical enquiry into the meaning of life love, evil, suffering and death tells us more about the author than any of the big questions he is supposed to be addressing.

I gave this 3 stars not so much because I enjoyed it but because I understand that if I gave it what I believe it really deserved it's less likely to be read. It would be unfair not to say there were some highlights but I was disappointed.

Interestingly he discusses how humans (note how he dehumanises humans and anthropomorphises animals) have evolved to become cheating deceivers who have to outwit each other to survive. He does not mention that in fact deception is not unique to humans and having a theory of mind and a more complex language for communication does not make us necessarily superior to other species who are also very adept at deceiving, it only means are different.

While the author is clearly a well educated successful author and philosopher, unfortunately his story is overshadowed by his self-indulgent introspection and there is an underlying arrogance ( albeit concealed) that pervades throughout the narrative . I suspect his choice of wolf as a pet may also have had something to do with his need to feel superior by distinguishing himself from the humanity he so despises. This is just one of several ironies I found when reading this book.

At times he comes across as refreshingly honest but one can't help wondering if perhaps this is just another layer of duplicity in order to manipulate his reader. Moreover, he makes several assumptions that are presented as facts without affording the reader any freedom to draw their own conclusions. I began to feel that whilst it appeared he is being very candid in 'confessing' his weaknesses, it was more likely an attempt to defend himself against any criticism, either from his readers or from himself. That said, there are some interesting and humorous anecdotes throughout the book, but hidden in many of them are also flashes of his own ego, once again expertly concealed behind false modesty. Sadly too he also resorts to using his philosophical expertise to provide self-justification for his own moral choices and beliefs yet fails to see the hypocrisy in many of his own arguments.

Mark Rowland's is a self-confessed misanthropist but what this memoir revealed was a man who, finding himself unable to face reality, decided to keep company with an animal that would provide him with unconditional love. In the meantime he retreats into the emotional anaesthesia of alcoholism in order to escape himself whilst at the same time attempting to comment on issues he has spent all his life avoiding and continues to avoid even as he writes. One has to question what can a writer say about life, love, suffering or any other emotion when he is speaking through the misty dreamscape of an alcohol induced state of detachment? This I found both ironic and sad.

The end where he discusses time, happiness and living in the moment was very labored and repetitive.

Thankfully he managed to get his act together, gave up the booze and found love. By the end I came to the conclusion that this was a book that he should have written just for himself as a form of therapeutic release rather than publication.

Would I recommend reading memoir? Well, if you are interested in philosophy there are some nuggets worthy of attention and some of his arguments do certainly provoke thought, if you are interested in animals I'd say watch something by David Attenborough and you will probably learn a lot more. On the other hand you are interested in the complex nature of humans, this is a wonderful psychological exploration into the mind of a philosopher who struggles to understand himself. However do not expect any very helpful suggestions or answers for any of the important questions raised.

If I learned anything from this is would be that "the best disguise is sometimes to be yourself" Clearly it seems to worked here for the author!!
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on 4 October 2009
I bought this book as a dog lover, being fascinated by the relationship between man and animals, and found this a truly delightful, inspiring, moving and most of all thoughtful read. I couldn't put this book down and suprisingly found it a more enjoyable read than most of the other, lighter, books I have bought this year. Buy it and prepare to reflect more deeply on the important questions in life, and what makes us who we are.
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on 6 January 2009
I put this book on my Christmas list having read a couple of extracts in newspaper supplements; I'm very glad that I did.

The strange thing is that, because it felt like I'd read so much of the book in the published extracts, I felt I knew exactly what I was getting: a moving account of a man's experience living with a wolf. I nearly typed "owning" but, if you read the book, you will appreciate how inappropriate that term would be.

However, I was a long way off the mark in my expectations. Yes, the moving and funny accounts of life with an essentially wild animal were still there, there's definitely a wolf, but there's also the philosopher.

The author turns his expert mind on the experience of sharing 11 years of his life with Brenin to a wonderfully though-provoking extent. I found myself wanting to read the book to experience the journey of life with the wolf, but also wanting to check my progress to contemplate the issues on life and people raised.

It turns out living with a wolf shines a significant light on how we are as people. That Rowland's ultimate analysis of homo sapiens is somewhat unflattering (that our intelligence is driven by our need to understand our peers so that we can deceive them more and use them for our own purposes) doesn't make it wrong.

The book is both enlightening and uplifting and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
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