Tony's Reviews > The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
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's review
Dec 01, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: u-s-lit, top-10-2011

Behold Genius.

Benjamin Hale is scary smart and as good a writer as it is legal to be. What a debut! He knows his Shakespeare and has captured his rhythm. And Eliot. And the Bible. The Language that flows through us all. Hale, a literary Incubus, seduces with timelessly crafted sentences on every page.

Start with a great idea....

No, to start: That is the greatest cover for a book, ever.

Now, restart with a great idea: a chimpanzee who learns to speak, who evolves in starts and fits into Man. I've read many books based on great ideas. So often, though, the author can't sustain it. (And yes, I'm talking about you, Kevin Brockmeier). Saramago rode great ideas to a Nobel (although he must have run out about the time he wrote The Double, stealing it from Dostoevsky and just removing the quotation marks and punctuation). But, let's be honest: he didn't always know how to end them. Bruno Littlemore just got better and better, carrying the reader to a symphonic conclusion.

But along the way, Hale takes on sitcoms,

The characters in these TV shows, despite the derisive cackles of the maddening crowd that hangs in the luminiferous ether between them, do not have to worry. They might have sexual relationships with one another, they might fall in and out of love with each other, they might have conflicts with each other, power struggles, or squabbles over resources. They are free to love, to hate, to go to work, and do all the things that people do, except worry. They are supernaturally free of true worry, because these characters know that at the end of the episode everything will reset itself, and the world will be as new. These people live in a candied reality, where all the conflicts of real life appear and disappear in joyful simulcra free of the possibility of permanent consequence. All of these TV shows were like a single, soothing lullaby voice, holding up a hilariously warped mirror to the middle class and whispering to them: Do not worry. Do not worry. Do not worry.

the Supreme Court,

"I'm no civics teacher, but I shall do my best: the Supreme Court is a panel of political whores. You see, there are such things in our government as checks and balances. That's why we have three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judgmental. When I was a child, my teachers made it abundantly clear to me that this was why I was lucky to have been born in America. I supposed that British royals were as nasty as my grade school teachers, and so the Queen might see me walking to school one day and say, 'I don't like the looks of that boy. Cut his head off!' Whereas here, even if both houses of Congress voted unanimously to have my head cut off, the Supreme Court could intervene. And that's checks and balances. Now do you understand?"

and how cellphones are the end of Literature.

"Curses! To hell with efficiency! To hell with convenience! To hell with communication! What kind of future are we making for ourselves, Bruno? ... Listen, Bruno, and despair, for what I hear is the flaccid language of business osmotically replacing every syllable of poetry still alive in the human heart!"

Shelves? I've only chosen two, but I could list Science, Nature, Art, Music, Religion, Mythology, countless more. I remember once P.D. James wrote about the Five Ls of Homicide (I can only remember 4: love, lust, loathing and lucre). Bruno Littlemore is about the great 5 Ls: laughter, Literature, love, life and language.

I will never think of Pinocchio in the same way.

And I will remember:

To live in an earlier world! I would put up with the horseshit! Really!

All the world's a zoo.

If it's not one kind of captivity, it's another.

Sorry to have gushed so. There are leaps of logic required here and the book sags a bit during a rendition of The Tempset. But Bruno is why we should read: to learn, to be entertained, to be provoked.

Do I dare to eat that peach?
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Rosalía Oh, to be in listening range of so eloquent a man! I swoon in such a presence!

message 2: by Jill (new)

Jill What a review, Tony! I was contemplating reading this but just not quite sure...and you've pushed me over the edge.

Tony Thank you, Jill. Best to read the inter-species sex as allegory, though.

switterbug (Betsey) As allegory? Why not a hybrid species like politicians--part ape/part wolf?

Your review is pushing me over the edge, too. Hopefully, in a good way. I love passion in a review, so swoon on! Yes, must be on the to-read list..

Tony For politicians, we might have to look at the insect world, or maybe drug-resistant viruses. A presidential race between E coli and Swine Flu. Not to be cynical.

Francine Fabulous review!

Tony Thank you, Francine.

Aspho Excellent review.

message 9: by N (new) - rated it 5 stars

N Mencke Agree. What do we read next?

Dottie Woodkey I just finished this book and I loved it!!! I have never been more intrigued. I am an animal science major as well as physical anthropology. It fell close to my heart and your review was spot on!!!

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I canNOT believe I am just now finding such a writer. I say genius is correct! I have this book in view to read, but I just read his short story and was blown away. Pretty amazing.

message 12: by Tony (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony Tbrando wrote: "I canNOT believe I am just now finding such a writer. I say genius is correct! I have this book in view to read, but I just read his short story and was blown away. Pretty amazing."

I will definitely be reading The Fat Artist.

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