Roy Peaks BOGO Book Review: Let Me Clear My Throat and Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello
Let Me Clear My Throat
Animals Strike Curious Poses
Author Elena Passarello
Review by Roy Peak
No on brings value to our chickens like Roy Peak. Today he reviews two books of essays by the same author! So you're getting double what you...errr...paid for. Now, on with the review!
So today, my fine Chickens, we have two books of essays written by the same author. I really do see these two books as companion pieces and am hoping there will one day soon be a third to round them out. Books this good should come in threes. That and the fact that I have not gotten near enough of the fine writing by this fantastic writer and am genuinely hoping for more. Elena Passarello, you are a true treasure.
In Animals, we get true tales of notable creatures such as Mozart's pet starling, which he claimed helped him compose several of his melodies; Harriet, a 175-year old tortoise from the Galapagos Islands; Mike the headless chicken, survivor of a botched beheading; Dürer's so wrong it was right rhinoceros; Jumbo, the circus elephant; Arabella, the experimenting spider aboard Skylab; Yuka, a wooly mammoth found frozen in the ice after perishing nearly forty-thousand years prior, and several more fascinating animals. Passarello makes these stories strikingly poignant and imbues them with a well deserved humanity—although that word seems strikingly insufficient to fully honor these animals in the way that Passarello has.
Several of these tales seemed a bit farfetched until I did some internet research (thank you, Wikipedia and Google image search) and discovered that yes, there was indeed a bear named Sackerson who fought as entertainment for the rowdy theater-goers of the time, and was famous enough at the time to be name checked by Shakespeare himself in one of his plays. There really was a goat gussied up as a unicorn and sensationally paraded to hundreds of thousands of circus goers during the nineteen-eighties. Did Mozart's pet starling actually listen to the composer's music and chirped it back with improved and unexpected melodies? All true and all brilliantly brought to life by some fantastic and rather compact writing by Passarello.
Her earlier book, Throat, is essays on the human voice, the miracle of speech, the magic of singing, the love of dialects. Like Animals, these are essays mostly on select individuals: famous singers such as Enrico Caruso, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland; Philadelphia sportscaster Myron Cope; an Elvis impersonator, an auctioneer, a speaker of tongues.
We also have essays on the Wilhelm Scream, the Rebel Yell, the "singing" of crows, early telephone etiquette, politician Howard Dean's infamous career-killing scream, as well as the author's own experience as a finalist in the New Orleans Stella Screaming Contest. (Which you can witness yourself thanks to the gloriousness of YouTube. Search for 2011 Stella Screaming Contest. You will not be disappointed.)
I stated earlier about a wish for a third book of essays in this series but what could it be about? Whatever it is, I'm sure that it will make me think, laugh, cry, and marvel at our world as written of by Elena Passarello's pen.
Roy Peak is Sacred Chickens' Music Editor. He has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. Roy writes music reviews for the Rocking Magpie among others.