Hypothetical Review of Hypothetical Book

Posted on Mar 31, 2010

Hypothetical Review of Hypothetical Book

Charles Orr’s blog The Hypothetical Library featured a new hypothetical book by Lydia Millet and her husband Kierán Suckling called Apocalypse Animals. I couldn’t resist the temptation to hypothetically review it. All quotes therein are hypothetical.


Apocalypse Animals

Lydia Millet and Kierán Suckling

Hypothetical Library, pages, HC

©2010 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Lydia Millet is probably best known for her fictional works, How The Dead Dream, Oh, Pure and Radiant Heart, and My Happy Life, which won the 2003 Pen-USA Award. Kierán Suckling is executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, the leading U.S. nonprofit on protecting endangered species.

Marriage partners themselves, Millet and Suckling have recreated what amounts to the pitch-perfect pillow whisperings of Rudyard Kipling’s The White Seal, and Jonah immediately after being thrust from the belly of the whale, were they married.

This is not for the faint of heart. What does a thorough disappearance look like? Millet and Suckling’s decision to focus solely on the ugly creatures in their debut non-fiction title Apocalypse Animals highlights their empathic acuity, as well as, and perhaps most importantly, our revulsion/deification of certain lives above others.


How lacking does the Alabama Cave Fish feel when her favourite eyeless flatworm is extinguished from the bowels of the earth? The book signals a mis-step in our concept of hierarchy, and food chain, as we come to understand the level of awareness of this tragically blind and translucent fish. Which of us is blind, for instance? What have we extinguished in ourselves that has led to the mass extinguishings on our planet? These are the complex questions with which Suckling and Millet grapple.

By the end of Apocalypse Animals the mind shifts. One cannot read—without some acknowledgement of the disparity in our corporeal yearnings—such sentences as:

“The fish nuzzled one another and shared what little food there was, noticing the other fishes, finally, by smell and vibration, and swishing over to drop morsels along the patient queue.”

We cannot any longer assess intelligence, wisdom, sympathy in light of this book. And we begin to know where we chart in the lives of those we daily affect: we do not chart. We are the sad, lacking lineage that, out of a hunger for power and beauty above sense and enlightenment, has lost sight, and become invisible to all the other creatures. We are not adored or reviled, and so, as the authors suggest in one poignant encounter with an alligator snapping turtle, “We feel ignored and ignorant, when such a creature does not even register us standing there. We have invented colonialism but not a way to communicate this idea to the animals. For them, we do not exist.”

The tragedy is that our actions impinge on their lives fatally. We have failed to consider the large picture in our acquisitional questing. From greed comes, eventually, nothing. So buy this book. Read it. Evolve!