Very Good Paragraphs

Haven’t done one of these in a while. This one’s from Gary Greenberg’s stunning review of Charles Foster’s Being a Beast and other recent learning-from-animals books in the Jan 2017 Harper’s (cutting the first sentence as it’s mostly gluework from the prior ?):

…As civilization fails to provide sufficient balm against our loss, as its costs become unbearable for more and more of us, the world’s stink begins, by comparison, to smell like fresh air, and devolution begins to seem attractive?or at least attractive enough to inspire three books on the subject in the same publishing season, which, it is hard not to notice, was also an election season, one in which Americans cast off reason in favor of passion. In its terrifying aftermath, the yearning at the heart of these books for a return to instinct takes on a meaning, and an intensity, their authors could not have intended. Some people will step off the evolutionary ladder into a realm where they can ramble with dogs or goats or badgers, and claim that they’ve become more human in the bargain. But some may land where wild instincts rule. A dog, lest we forget, will gleefully rip your pet cat in two, a billy goat will fuck whatever doe he can get his hooves on, and a fox will eat all your chickens in a heartbeat and call it a perfect day. They will be remorseless for the pain they cause. But at least they can’t be accused of giving up on themselves or one another.

This is some expert-level criticism, not only capable of finding ties among three books (on admittedly related subjects) but to set these books’ concerns amid our own, those arising out of the times we’re finding ourselves confused by. It #resists, in today’s parlance, by looking past the partisan narratives we see retweeted every day in favor of its own reasoned understanding of who and where we are.

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