Spectacular. Gripping narrative of an incident in far eastern Asia, near the border between China and the former USSR, where an injured tiger attackedSpectacular. Gripping narrative of an incident in far eastern Asia, near the border between China and the former USSR, where an injured tiger attacked, killed, and ate the man who injured him. Vaillant describes the habitual relationship of tigers and inhabitants of the area, and how this particular man and tiger changed the rules of the relationship, both in an effort to survive changing conditions. He also examines the ancient relationships between man and large predators over the millenia. Vaillant's portraits of the people involved are detailed, evocative and empathetic. Vaillant has obviously worked hard to climb into the tiger mind and understand it, with great success (as far as I can tell... being neither a tiger nor someone who has interviewed a tiger about the book, I feel I should offer that caveat :)). The book pulls the reader along to its final conclusion. ...more
I had a hard time getting into this book -- there were a few false starts that never made it more than 5 pages in. I finally had the time to get interI had a hard time getting into this book -- there were a few false starts that never made it more than 5 pages in. I finally had the time to get interested on the plane to Hawaii, and I read most of it while were on vacation.
The book is made up of 6 nested stories in different time periods. All the stories are connected to each other, in both subtle and obvious ways. The dystopian future segment reminded me of Margaret Atwood's Oryx & Crake and its sequel -- genetic engineering, cloning, rampant consumer consumption. One of the themes that connects each story to the others is how consistently human beings prey on those who are weaker than they are, not matter how "civilized" the world has become. So, not exactly a hopeful story about the world's future, but fascinating.
One passage that grabbed me was this one; it simultaneously describes the way the stories of the book are nested together: "* Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction -- in short, belief -- grows ever "truer." The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct; in contract, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent. * The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies + legitimacy to the imposition of will. Power seeks + is the right to landscape the virtual past (he who pays the historian calls the tune). * Symmetry demands an actual + virtual future, too. We imagine how next week, next year, or 2225 will shape up - a virtual future, constructed by wishes, prophecies + daydreams. This virtual future, constructed by wishes, prophecies + daydreams. This virtual future may influence the actual future, as in a self-fulfilling prophecy, but the actual future will eclipse our virutal oneas surely as tomorrow eclipses today. Like Utopia, the actual future + the actual past exist only int he hazy distance, where they are no good to anyone. * Q: Is there a meaningful distinction between one simulacrum of smoke, mirrors + shadows - the actual past - from another such simulacrum - the actual future? * One model of time: an infinite matryoshka doll of painted moments, each "shell" (the present) encased inside a nest of "shells" (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past. The doll of "now" likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be, which I call the actual future but which we perceive as the virtual future." ...more