Over at Lithub, New Orleans Writers Workshop instructor Anya Groner interviewed Sarabande author Elena Passarello about her new book Animals Strike Curious Poses.
When Elena Passarello was a girl, her grandparents took her to see a unicorn. Lancelot was a “creamed-rinsed, mutant goat with a watery eye,” a “survivor of backwoods surgery with a pastel-bedazzled wang sprouting from his brain.” Like the other children in the audience, Elena was enchanted. She knew Lancelot was a phony, a glitzed-up Frankensteined goat, yet her heart palpitated with the earnest love of a wowed child. In his sparkling eyes, she recognized herself.
Today, Elena Passarello is a writer, and her second book of essays, Animals Strike Curious Poses is just out from Sarabande. In addition to a meditation on Lancelot, the collection includes 16 essays on the lives, deaths, and mythologies of various other animals. Modeled after a medieval bestiary, the book progresses chronologically, beginning with the story of Yuka, a wooly mammoth frozen in 39,000 B.C. and ending with the 2015 hunting death of Cecil the lion. In between, Passarello considers the pet starling who may have inspired Mozart’s compositions, an Elizabethan-era fighting bear who threw mastiffs into the stands, a Galapagos tortoise’s heartbreak for Charles Darwin, and Arabella, the first spider in space. “We feel the pull of the them before we know to name them, or how to even fully see them,” Passarello writes of the human obsession with animals. “It is as if they were already waiting, crude sketches of themselves, in the recesses of our bodies.”
Read the rest of the interview here.