web site hit counter The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

Availability: Ready to download

Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.


Compare

Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

30 review for The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    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 r 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?

  2. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    The WTF factor is strong with this one. The story of Bruno, a chimpanzee who learns how to speak and who slowly "evolves" into a man started out really strong. Bruno described the circumstances of his captivity and hints at the story that led up to his current condition. However, the story takes long, long, long time to tell, and Bruno is a somewhat less than reliable narrator. Well, either this, or Hale left out some relevant explanations of certain turns in the plot. While there is something cle The WTF factor is strong with this one. The story of Bruno, a chimpanzee who learns how to speak and who slowly "evolves" into a man started out really strong. Bruno described the circumstances of his captivity and hints at the story that led up to his current condition. However, the story takes long, long, long time to tell, and Bruno is a somewhat less than reliable narrator. Well, either this, or Hale left out some relevant explanations of certain turns in the plot. While there is something clever about describing mankind from the perspective of a chimp and relating that evolution is not as big a step up from the animal kingdom as man would believe it to be, the story itself just isn't gripping me. DNF @ 37%.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jafar

    A book like this should come with a warning on the cover: This book will interfere with your normal life. It’s almost 600 pages, and you won’t be able to put it down. This will be a serious problem unless you’re one of those prodigal fast readers. You’ve been forewarned. To hold a full-time job and finish this book in less than a week is an achievement in itself for a sluggish reader like me. This book provides a good excuse to stay at home on a Saturday night when it’s cold and windy and you re A book like this should come with a warning on the cover: This book will interfere with your normal life. It’s almost 600 pages, and you won’t be able to put it down. This will be a serious problem unless you’re one of those prodigal fast readers. You’ve been forewarned. To hold a full-time job and finish this book in less than a week is an achievement in itself for a sluggish reader like me. This book provides a good excuse to stay at home on a Saturday night when it’s cold and windy and you really don’t feel like going out just because it’s Saturday night and you normally feel obliged to go out. What this novel is about – you can read in the book description. There are parts of the book that can gross you out. And you have to be a good sport and accept a chimp who has found a shortcut through the six million years of evolutionary divergence between humans and chimps – a chimp so gifted that I’d be glad if I were half as smart. But the story is really gripping. I don’t remember the last time that I was drawn to a novel so much just by the sheer irresistibility of its plot. I can think of Middlesex as another such example. The writing gets superbly lyrical and creative in many places. There is chapter in which Bruno describes how he imagines a play that he’s acting in should be staged. I went back to the beginning right after I finished that chapter and reread it. As an added bonus, a character appears towards the end of the book that seems to be a reincarnation of Ignatius from A Confederacy of Dunces.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore was published back in April, and caused nary a splash as it hit an unsuspecting public. I've seen very few reviews and not many discussion points concerning this novel. It's not been put onto any longlists or shortlists that I'm aware of, and Benjamin Hale has not been feted as one of the bravest debut novelists of recent times. In my opinion, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore should have exploded into people's consciousness. It should have been reviewed by peopl The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore was published back in April, and caused nary a splash as it hit an unsuspecting public. I've seen very few reviews and not many discussion points concerning this novel. It's not been put onto any longlists or shortlists that I'm aware of, and Benjamin Hale has not been feted as one of the bravest debut novelists of recent times. In my opinion, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore should have exploded into people's consciousness. It should have been reviewed by people who admire both contemporary/literary works and those who appreciate a more speculative bent to their fiction. I can't even point to a particular reason why it didn't perform as well as it should have. Possibly because this is a large brick of a debut novel, and people these days don't like to put out cash on an unrecognised name. Possibly because the subject matter is so bizarre and, at times, outright taboo. For me, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore was virtually as challenging a read as comes along. It challenged my perceptions of what it means to be human. It challenged my ideas of science versus art. It shocked me into laughter at times. At other points I was curling my lip in disgust and reading the novel through eyes blinkered by societal norms. This is a bolshy, brazen novel that does not shy away from that final step into offensiveness and darkness. Bruno is the very definition of an unreliable narrator. He is telling his story to "Gwen", who remains off-screen for the duration of the tale. Everything we find out about Bruno himself and the life he leads is coloured by his own neurosis, arrogance and self-loathing. He is frustrating, witty, compassionate, rambling and often incredibly difficult to read about. Apart from the fact that you spend much of the novel suspending disbelief about the very nature of Bruno and his relationship with Lydia, sometimes Bruno can also be pretty bloody unlikeable. But he is a magnetic narrator, and I remained mesmerised by his story almost all the way through. I say "almost", because sometimes The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore descends into a rambling mess. Sometimes it feels pretentious. Sometimes the language was wilfully difficult to process - beyond purple prose. When it touches the heights of its prose, though, it is difficult to imagine a better novel. It defies belief that this is a debut novel. I admired particularly the level of intellect and discussion present in The Evolution of... such as the following passage: "I hope that the future's scholars of dramaturgy (if indeed such people will exist in the future) will recognise that I, Bruno Littlemore, was the first actor to realise that the role of Caliban should be played through an evolutionary perspective. While I understand The Tempest was first performed in 1612, a good two and a half centuries before the publications of Charles Darwin, on closely studying the text, I find it hard to believe that Shakespeare was not in some way anachronistically informed and even influenced by The Origin of the Species. Time perhaps is not as uninterestingly linear as we imagine, Gwen. Shakespeare was at the very least a clear premonition of his future fellow Englishman. I even go so far as to imagine that the ship in The Tempest is the Beagle, and Prospero's island, Galapagos." When it was applied in the following passage, it made me snort with laughter: "We watched the cartoons that take eternal pursuit as their theme: both the amorous pursuit of lover and beloved [...] as well as the violent pursuit of predator and prey: Coyote and Road Runner, Sylvester and Tweety, Tom and Jerry...all that mythic pursuit! - the endless flux of the chase, the magnetic push-and-pull of aggression and defense, of repulsion and desire!...perhaps the true spirit of myth - of Echo and Narcissus, of Achilles and Hector - survives for us, in its pure form, only in cartoons." So, how to conclude my thoughts on this novel? Probably to say that The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is more than good enough for you to spend money on. Probably also to say that if you were to buy only one more novel this year, you should make it this. It is dark, brave, satirical and surprisingly tender and moving. The story of Bruno Littlemore demands patience and attention, but it is worth every minute.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    It has been such a long time since I read fiction this good. I almost didn't read it when I read the premise (a memoir of a chimpanzee.) It didn't seem possible that this could make a good book. I trusted the goodreads reviewers though and this time was so glad that I did. The author did an amazing job of bringing Bruno to life. I felt like I knew him and he became a part of my life for the 10 days I spent reading this book. I couldn't wait to pick up the book each day and I was sorry when it en It has been such a long time since I read fiction this good. I almost didn't read it when I read the premise (a memoir of a chimpanzee.) It didn't seem possible that this could make a good book. I trusted the goodreads reviewers though and this time was so glad that I did. The author did an amazing job of bringing Bruno to life. I felt like I knew him and he became a part of my life for the 10 days I spent reading this book. I couldn't wait to pick up the book each day and I was sorry when it ended even though it is almost 600 pages. Also, Bruno's vocabulary was so impressive that I had to sit with my dictionary iphone app when I read the book. Sometimes that can be offputting in a book but in this case it worked because it helped define Bruno's personality. I was considering giving it 4 stars because of these reasons: 1. Occasionally there were way too many descriptive details which was boring for me. Also, one detail was so wrong that it really irked me. 2. I couldn't get inside of the head of Lydia and understand her behavior. I know it is told as a memoir and therefore Bruno wouldn't know what she is thinking so technically it was "correct", however her behavior needed some explaining! Ultimately, these were not enough reasons to lose a star considering how much I enjoyed the book. I'm thinking a book doesn't have to be perfect to get 5 stars. The fact that this one was so captivating, well written and original is enough for me. I should mention though that if the idea of a chimpanzee having sex with a woman is too sickening for you, then this probably isn't the book for you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Konrad

    Um .... yeah. I desperately want a friend to read this book so I can debrief with them, but have a hard time telling anyone it's a must-read. It's not a bad book—one where you set it down and think to yourself, "Wow, that was a colossal waste of my time. How did they get that printed?" But it's not a "Crikeys, everyone MUST.READ.THIS." For a debut effort, I'm really impressed with Benjamin Hale, but I would suggest the book is beyond verbose. There are quite literally entire chapters you could b Um .... yeah. I desperately want a friend to read this book so I can debrief with them, but have a hard time telling anyone it's a must-read. It's not a bad book—one where you set it down and think to yourself, "Wow, that was a colossal waste of my time. How did they get that printed?" But it's not a "Crikeys, everyone MUST.READ.THIS." For a debut effort, I'm really impressed with Benjamin Hale, but I would suggest the book is beyond verbose. There are quite literally entire chapters you could blow off and still enjoy the the story of Bruno, chimp extraordinaire, and the love of his life, Lydia. I know there have been readers that struggle with the beastiality plot point. For me, I wasn't so much offended by it from Bruno's standpoint than I was visualizing Lydia reciprocating. But then again, we don't get Lydia's perspective. Was the loss of her husband and child too much, and she was driven insane? Was her medical condition to blame for her behavior? Who knows. Maybe if Bruno could have stopped yapping for a chapter or two and let someone else do the talking.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robin Chan

    The first half was much better for me than the second half.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen Loveridge

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is one of the few books ... and I read over a hundred a year ... that I was unable to finish. Who knew that if a chimp gained language and intelligence he would end up being an pompous, supercilious and horney teenager. I listened to the audio book, and the voice of the character was more that of a ptetentious overly verbal and condescending young man. I just couldn't continue once it got to the sex scenes. I reject the notion that all male/female connections have to be sexual. And while I c This is one of the few books ... and I read over a hundred a year ... that I was unable to finish. Who knew that if a chimp gained language and intelligence he would end up being an pompous, supercilious and horney teenager. I listened to the audio book, and the voice of the character was more that of a ptetentious overly verbal and condescending young man. I just couldn't continue once it got to the sex scenes. I reject the notion that all male/female connections have to be sexual. And while I could see boundaries being crossed, Lydia having al ong-term love affair where they spent "weekends naked and in bed" was too much. It is such a HUGE taboo in so many ways. Animal/human, authority figure/pupil. It is highly possible that the book explained Lydia's going so far over the line, but the book kept telling me to picture the chimp and his "keeper" in bed together having sex, and it was simply too much for me. I think I could have handled the sex if I had liked the character/story otherwise. I liked the concept of what would happen if you tried to humanize a chimp to the point where he could speak, think, write, and act human -- but was still a chimp underneath it all. But the character the author chose to assemble from the concept was one I simply didn't like. I have so many books waiting to be read, that I made the decision -- for only the second time I can remember -- to stop reading the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Darin

    I heard about this book and was very excited. It's a book about a chimp who learns how to talk! It's like Nim Chimpsky but fiction! I MUST LOVE. Eh, not so much. The tone of the narrator (Bruno, the chimp who learned to talk) is just not pleasant. Spread that over 580ish pages and you have a rather challenging book to get through. In all fairness, I get WHY Bruno has his tone and perspective as the whole impetus of his evolution is his rejection of animal nature. Of course he is then rejected by I heard about this book and was very excited. It's a book about a chimp who learns how to talk! It's like Nim Chimpsky but fiction! I MUST LOVE. Eh, not so much. The tone of the narrator (Bruno, the chimp who learned to talk) is just not pleasant. Spread that over 580ish pages and you have a rather challenging book to get through. In all fairness, I get WHY Bruno has his tone and perspective as the whole impetus of his evolution is his rejection of animal nature. Of course he is then rejected by humankind (mostly) so we are given hundreds of pages of discourse on why BOTH animals and humans suck equally. Heh. The length of the book does not help any of this. It's filled with more frustrating (and arguably useless) details than an Irving novel. Obviously there was something redeeming. I did make myself read the whole damn thing after all. But I'm not quite sure why. If you are like me and have an unhealthy obsession (heh) with reading animal memoirs and fiction, I'd pass this one by. Instead go check my review of "Lucy" and pick up that book. It's a much shorter and more rewarding read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Francine

    Well...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse." The novel itself was a study in dualities: what it means to be animal and human, what it means to love your own kind vs. an outsider, what it means to cross that line from the inner being to the outer, and most of all, deciding to hold on to the innocence of youth (keeping with an animal nature) and accepting the incongruities of living as a man (becoming aware of what it mean Well...I think Bruno summarized it thus: "I have never been a religious ape. I was and remain the chimp of the perverse." The novel itself was a study in dualities: what it means to be animal and human, what it means to love your own kind vs. an outsider, what it means to cross that line from the inner being to the outer, and most of all, deciding to hold on to the innocence of youth (keeping with an animal nature) and accepting the incongruities of living as a man (becoming aware of what it means to be man and understanding the ego). I read a lot of reviews about this novel, both good and bad. The salaciousness of a human-chimp love affair notwithstanding, this was a novel about Bruno's love not only for the woman who taught him language and what it meant to be human, but about Bruno's love for humanity itself. He wanted to be human; he didn't want the confines -- the innocence, the lack of language, the baser and more primitive nature -- of his life as a chimp. Bruno relished being able to communicate, to think, to recognize, to emote. That was the best part of this book: his growth from a baby chimp who was barely aware of his surroundings, to a primate who identified with his human captors so much that he didn't really think of himself as a chimp at all. He was human, with human feelings and emotions, who thought like a human and acted like a human, who lived and enjoyed all the perks of modern society. Still, as he says, he is and will remain a chimp of the perverse. Because no matter how much he counted himself as a human, his baser instincts have and will always be, that of his kind: of an animal who can and will act as an animal, especially when he recognizes that humans devolve, in the name of science, into their animalistic natures as well. While much will be said about the romance between Bruno and Lydia, about the consummation of this relationship, about what happens in the course of their time together, the book really wasn't about that. It was about his growth into a human and his love of humanity; it was also about Lydia'a ability to see beyond his apeness and recognize what made him a human. For these, I would give the book a solid 4. These were the parts of the book I enjoyed the most. But I'll be honest...I didn't enjoy all the philosophical ramblings that Bruno took in the latter half of the novel. The way how Bruno rationalized things, at times, made him so obviously perverse (there it is again) that is was hard to like him, as a character. There were sections of the book where he would go on for pages, rationalizing, deconstructing, pontificating, and not always in a good way. I understand that Hale was trying to make a point: in the move from animal to human, there are many ideals and incontrovertible truths that Bruno will need to cogitate on, and he wanted to show Bruno's thought processes and the various directions it took him. I saw that and from a purely intellectual stance, I appreciated it. But a) this is fiction and b) it's a lot of unnecessary and repeated navel gazing. I want the story; I want to be moved. I'm a greedy reader like that. I don't want to feel as if I'm stuck in my freshman Intro to Philosophy course: I know I have to be there, but I don't need to like it, so I'll listen and I'll know enough to get me through all the tests and papers, but at the end, I won't really take anything in. For this, I gave the book a 2, for an average of 3 stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rosalía

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Imagine a novel that includes Philosophy, Psychology,Biology, mystery, love, Theology, Anthropology, and...sex. I dare say to read my fellow bookworm Tony's review: "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 pag Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Imagine a novel that includes Philosophy, Psychology,Biology, mystery, love, Theology, Anthropology, and...sex. I dare say to read my fellow bookworm Tony's review: "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?(less)" Of course this is all without permission. Please, Tony. Do you forgive me? If I bat my lashes and offer something fleshy to strike?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Review copy from publisher Well, there is one positive to calling out sick and feeling like death warmed over - and that is the ability to clock in uninterrupted "couch time", which allowed me to breeze through the final 150 pages of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore today. One of the more talked about novels back in May 2010 during the BEA's, I managed to somehow walk right by this hefty novel without adding it to my many bags of books. Huge thanks go out to it's publisher, Twelve, for making a r Review copy from publisher Well, there is one positive to calling out sick and feeling like death warmed over - and that is the ability to clock in uninterrupted "couch time", which allowed me to breeze through the final 150 pages of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore today. One of the more talked about novels back in May 2010 during the BEA's, I managed to somehow walk right by this hefty novel without adding it to my many bags of books. Huge thanks go out to it's publisher, Twelve, for making a review copy available. Prepare to be schooled by an ape. Bruno Littlemore - "Bruno I was given, Littlemore I gave myself" - narrates the story of his life from a jail cell. Yes, that's right. The book is cleverly narrated by an ape. And not just any ape. Our ape, Bruno, is capable of human speech. A bi-pedal ape who loves, longs, and lies just like a human. And has apparently committed murder in a fit of rage like one too. Taken from his home at the Lincoln Park Zoo at an early age, Bruno finds himself the subject of many scientific behavioral test at the Erman Biology Center of the University of Chicago. Demonstrating a severe preference for human contact, Bruno quickly falls in love with Lydia - one of the research center's female employees. Just as quickly, Lydia discovers Bruno's ability to think and rationalize like a human and begins spending all of her time, and much of the center's money, teaching and developing Bruno's ever-evolving mind. Told through the childlike mind of a chimp who speaks more fluently and scholarly than most humans I know, we are exposed to the many raw, graphic moments of his life. This ape, who believes himself human, who begins to live his life as a human, also begins a love affair with a human. I had to repeatedly remind myself that what I was reading was taking place between a chimp and a human. Sometimes sweet and tender, other times creepy and beastly, Bruno spends much of the novel's 576 pages confessing his reciprocated love and obsession for Lydia. Fair warning - this book oozes taboo topics. Be prepared to read it with an open mind, or do not read it at all. He also divulges his passion for painting, classical music, and theatre - all of which he spends some time dabbling in. An ape who wraps himself in human clothing, perfecting his brush strokes while listening to Bach, and rehearsing his lines for an upcoming presentation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, you ask? You really must read it to believe it! Weighing in at such a heavy page count, the book reads much faster than you would expect it to. (Granted, I'm sure it's author, Benjamin Hale, could have cut some of Bruno's musings and self-indulgent, narcissistic ramblings without sacrificing any of the storyline.) Bruno, who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, is a creature of human consciousness. That means he suffers a wide range of human emotion - such as curiosity, guilt, shame, love, lust, fear, and rage. Much of this novel finds Bruno reflecting on each one of these feelings, philosophizing about religion and evolution, questioning the differences between man and animal, and sometimes damning humankind for taking away something he can never get back - his naive animal consciousness. It also deals heavily with his ideas of acceptance and vanity, and his increasingly urgent need to fit in at all costs. What he has learned, he cannot unlearn. As he passes from pre-linguistic thought to spoken language, Bruno struggles to maintain the balance between his primal urges and the more subtle, unspoken actions of man. A very well written, thought-inspiring take on what it is to be human, what it was to be an ape, and what happens when one attempts to become the other.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bridgit

    The title pretty much says it all. This is the story (the extremely well written story) of Bruno, a chimp living in a zoo in Chicago and how he 'evolved' from a normal every day chimp to a fluent, emotional, artistic, literate 'human'. The book begins with Bruno in jail, narrating his own biography to a journalist. He is a household name, but not in a good way. He tells of his travels through different paths,and how each helped him on his slow progression towards becoming a human. And that is th The title pretty much says it all. This is the story (the extremely well written story) of Bruno, a chimp living in a zoo in Chicago and how he 'evolved' from a normal every day chimp to a fluent, emotional, artistic, literate 'human'. The book begins with Bruno in jail, narrating his own biography to a journalist. He is a household name, but not in a good way. He tells of his travels through different paths,and how each helped him on his slow progression towards becoming a human. And that is the story in a super super small nutshell. I freaking loved this book. HOWEVER, not everyone will. If you were uncomfortable with Lolita and didnt like it because of the extreme sexual dysfunction, you should totally avoid this book. Also, it is long. I am of the opinion that people need to recognize that going in to the book. To complain about a book being long when you knowingly picked up a 600+ page tome just seems silly. That said, here is why it was excellent. The language and lyrical way that Hale writes this novel is just pure magic. Within the first 15 pages I was just plain giddy reading this. The phrasing, the imagery, they word choice - all of it is just so fresh and elegant. I am a prolific reader and have truly not read anything where the language rivaled this, with perhaps the exception of Nabokov. The story is ingenious. The choice of making the chimp the first person narrator was very clever and is carried off very well. It invites you in and makes you relate to Bruno in a way that a third-person narrator never could. And this is very important. Because Bruno is not easily relatable. Bruno is a chimp that has sex with a human. And he tells you all about it. That it is not bestiality; Bruno has become a human. In the beginning, you are nauseated - and just a little bit intrigued. Which makes you disgusted with yourself and with Bruno. Yet you stick with him as he continues to discover himself and all of his humanness - his emotions, his intellect, his voice. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a masterpiece, but it is a masterpiece that should only be read by an open, accepting audience. To read this with anything but an open mind is to do the book a disservice.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    Some writers focus their craft with laser precision, building it piece by piece like a type of architecture. Some writers make me so sick with their talent. These writers parade their prose back and forth like it’s their groomed Bichon Frise at Westminster. Some writers often arrogant with their skill, filling pages with leaps of precise logic and seemingly effortlessly composed metaphor. Benjamin Hale, makes me forgot about the actual craft of writing. This is not to say that Benjamin Hale isn’t Some writers focus their craft with laser precision, building it piece by piece like a type of architecture. Some writers make me so sick with their talent. These writers parade their prose back and forth like it’s their groomed Bichon Frise at Westminster. Some writers often arrogant with their skill, filling pages with leaps of precise logic and seemingly effortlessly composed metaphor. Benjamin Hale, makes me forgot about the actual craft of writing. This is not to say that Benjamin Hale isn’t an amazing writer, highly proficient in his craft. Quite the opposite. ‘The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore’ is heartbreaking, intelligent, and sharp. The chimpanzee (not a monkey, monkeys don’t have tails) serves as the narrator. Humbert Humbert style, he is prone to seducing the reader to seeing the facts just as he sees them while ignoring any traces (and believe me, there are many traces) of arrogance or moral ambiguity. ‘The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore’ is about many things: coming of age, the Bible, what it means to be a human, what it means to have language. Bruno pontificates on language with nothing short on lust. It may just be the best book I’ve read in a very long time. But reading it was an act of simply reading; not pausing to try and analyze his words like an architect examines a building. And that’s true craft. This comes specifically from the narrative. Bruno is an unlikable character, but he draws you in. The prose is authoritative, but the irony of the ultimate outsider seeing humanity and craving it is what allows this novel to transcend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    Finally. I know I've only been reading this book for 4.5 days, but it felt like eternity. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I think Hale makes some great commentaries on human life (see below on educating someone, religion, and the trouble of it/thou during sex). However, he was inaccurate at times, verbose and repetitive (always), and too serious (I think that he was trying to be mock-absurd in the way the Tom Robbins can be absurd, but instead he oftentimes fell flat and instead of mak Finally. I know I've only been reading this book for 4.5 days, but it felt like eternity. I wanted to like this book, I really did. I think Hale makes some great commentaries on human life (see below on educating someone, religion, and the trouble of it/thou during sex). However, he was inaccurate at times, verbose and repetitive (always), and too serious (I think that he was trying to be mock-absurd in the way the Tom Robbins can be absurd, but instead he oftentimes fell flat and instead of making me chuckle I just groaned...I think the most comical character who fell flat in the way I mean is Hilarious Lily who in many ways could have been Hilarious, but instead was just sad). The whole thing reminded me of Keyes's Flowers for Algernon which I have not read in 15 (or so) years and so I'm gonna re-read that next just to clear my head. Certainly Bruno does not de-evolve, but the process of developing cognizance in this novel reminded me of that story. So to start with, I will enumerate a few inaccuracy/discrepancies in the logic of the text. One of Bruno's main points about the difference between humans and animals is the acquisition of language. He argues that pre-linguistic creatures do not have the capacity to think. Since they do not have symbolic representations of objects and ideas in their heads, they cannot think or evaluate things outside of the moment in which they occur. Okay, I'll buy that (almost...I won't actually believe it in real life, but I'll give it to him as a precedent on which to build in the story). BUT then he goes on to try to make some contradictory arguments. First he describes how his mother (who is the dumbest chimp he knows...not just an animal but a really dumb one) not only knows and understands that Bruno has a sexual preference for human women but dislikes this preference. Following his own rules for understanding how pre-linguistic creatures thing we have to assume that she can only form these thoughts if (and while) she watched him have sex with a human female...and he does not do this until long after he leaves the zoo. Second, he criticizes his animal family and judges them by human standards (rather than understanding them as animals and chimps) and then at the end seems to longingly wish that he himself had never "evolved". If he knows that they do not have the capacity to think, why would he hold them accountable to mores that he himself (hello he rapes Lydia and states that he doesn't understand what he did wrong) has trouble accepting during the process of his "evolution." I think Hale was trying to have us see Bruno develop socially through the book but there is a problem with using the mechanism of a hindsight speaking character. Bruno at the beginning is the same as Bruno at the end. If Hale wanted to show development, he needed to make this third-person narration, not pseudo-autobiographical. When he is a chimp he would not evaluate his family negatively; at the end once he is disillusioned with humanity he also would not evaluate his family negatively. It is only during his middle "glory" years living with Lydia that he would frown upon their animalism...and the book is not written in that time frame or mind set. I also had a problem with Bruno's general knowledge base. Silly me, I wanted to know how he would have come to discover Rotpeter's history. Rotpeter is not gifted with language and would not have been able to tell him and the humans who worked at the zoo would not know this info...so from whence does it come and how does Bruno learn it? I was also frequently frustrated throughout when he didn't know a word. I know, I know he very eloquently argues about all the holes in the erudition of an autodidact (see I can use big words too), BUT really, this monkey can quote Shakespeare and argue philosophy but he has never heard of a frisbee and so must describe as a "brightly colored saucer-like object"? Really? He also doesn't know about CAT scans and is surprised that there are any cities other than Chicago. Really? In all his reading he never stumbled across New York? Really? I felt like Hale was trying to make a lot of interesting comments about human society, life, and relationships and came up with this mechanism as a new way to get an outsider's perspective. But I think it would have been better if it was truly an outsider. I think a modern ET who developed language and was able to see the scientific community in this way would have been a better tool. I just felt like there would have been fewer clunky pieces and an overall more workable framework if he simply had an alien analyze our ridiculous humanity. I also have trouble with a main character who is ultimately only liked by two people, both of whom have mental issues...Leon is described as and arguably is at least partly insane and Lydia has a brain tumor. I did think it was clever that Hale makes Lydia mentally incompetent; it makes those of us who find it completely and totally unbelievable that she would fuck her chimp allow for it without criticism. After all she was not in her right mind. I know that Bruno argues that they are in love, but how can she be in love with a creature that does not speak (English or sign language) and is simply a child-like pet? Maybe later once he starts talking she could fall in love with him, but even then he is pre-literate and much more like a fuzzy 4 year old than a partner. Even at the end of their relationship after he has spent a few years reading and becoming "cultured" he still is completely dependent on her and incapable of any adult action. So, I'm left with three good quotes which comment on the human condition..there are points in the text in which he contradicts these, but I'm not going to search for and present here because this review is already long enough and this way I get to leave on a positive note: On human sexuality: "Thus was my lesson in human sexual morality. I had to learn this. When my father, Rotpeter, wanted to stick his dick in something, he simply went and did it. I had to learn restraint. I had to learn empathy. When it came to sex, I had to make the Buberian moral shift from I/it to I/thous. That is, a soul is a thou an a body is an it. The problem with this construct is, of course, that when sex enters into any relationship between two conscious beings with sufficient theory of mind to cognize the consciousness of the other, we must deal with the philosophical difficulty of seeing another person as an it and a thou at the same time. I have since noticed that not even most humans can do this. At the height of passion, animal solipsism is absolute, and everything but the I is an it." On education: "All real learning, all education, Gwen, is self-motivated. Teaching helps, yes, but teaching students by force, by pushing, is as good as preaching a sermon to a congregation of stones." On religious zealots: "What in the world is wrong with a civilization in which we must take these people at all seriously? Why must we listen to their 'opinions'? Why must we suffer them to jam their feet in the doors of our discourse? Why must we respectfully demur to their 'faith'? why allow their voices into our politics? why must these intolerant people be tolerated? I refuse to tolerate them! I swear, Gwen, in my least 'tolerant' moods I sometimes think that any truly just and wise society would regard religious faith not as some deep noble kind philosophical lofty spiritual bullshit, but merely as an official, DSM-certified mental illness! Throw it right in there with schizophrenia! Why not?" I think I would like Hale as a person and I think he has a lot of good things to say, I just wish he had done a better job of thinking through the mechanism that he used to say it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    This book was verbose and under normal circumstances might be intolerable for 580 pages of verbiage. Under the circumstances though, this being of a particular point of view and that, had a chimp really developed this level of language --- perhaps they would talk like a supercilious professor of English, it was tolerable. It honestly didn't bother me very much. I never felt the need to run for a dictionary, you acclimate quickly and the style of language was very consistent. Plot wise, I'm hones This book was verbose and under normal circumstances might be intolerable for 580 pages of verbiage. Under the circumstances though, this being of a particular point of view and that, had a chimp really developed this level of language --- perhaps they would talk like a supercilious professor of English, it was tolerable. It honestly didn't bother me very much. I never felt the need to run for a dictionary, you acclimate quickly and the style of language was very consistent. Plot wise, I'm honestly not sure what to say about this book. I didn't dislike it but I wouldn't say I enjoyed it. I read it within a week, so It wasn't a dreary novel I had to slowly force my way through. That said, I wasn't expecting the sexual elements of this story or to read them so vividly described. At one point I actually moaned and flung the book across the room to get it away from me. I was, for a time, disgusted. Not by Bruno but Lydia and the entire conception of her. I found every action, every thought, every painful sentence concerning their relationship post-intimacy repulsive. When her storyline came to fruition I was actually without sympathy. She passed out of the story and I didn't miss her. I was at a loss throughout the novel to see Bruno interacting with certain people the way he did or rather being reacted to? The thought of a teenage girl beside him on a couch deciding she wants to kiss him for example. Hairless or no, a chimp is quite visibly a chimp. Blegh. I did find it a little bit annoying also, that at certain moments of excitement, Bruno would speak along the lines of 'but I won't go into detail' and certain scenes were omitted, while at least 200 pages of superfluous detail were left. So I don't know about this book. It wasn't bad but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. It would certainly be interesting to read an entirely different work by the same author.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I was excited to read this, since blogger Mimi Smartypants, who reads an inhuman number of books, gave it four stars (a VERY rare rating for her), and while it certainly was very sharp and funny, with lots of amusing references to culture of both the highbrow and lowbrow varieties, in the end I didn't find it all that amazing. It felt sort of like a fascinating writing experiment carried too far. Sort of like those movies that get made out of Saturday Night Live sketch characters, which work as I was excited to read this, since blogger Mimi Smartypants, who reads an inhuman number of books, gave it four stars (a VERY rare rating for her), and while it certainly was very sharp and funny, with lots of amusing references to culture of both the highbrow and lowbrow varieties, in the end I didn't find it all that amazing. It felt sort of like a fascinating writing experiment carried too far. Sort of like those movies that get made out of Saturday Night Live sketch characters, which work as sketches but just don't hold up for an entire feature length film. This was a book with lots of enjoyable moments that just didn't add up to a whole, satisfying novel. In part, the novel was an attempt at bildungsroman, but it just didn't capture the element of growth (whether real or ironic). What was being passed off as growth felt more like an excuse for the author to throw in some not particularly engaging social criticism and put it in the mouth of his protagonist near the end of the story. There was also an element of the naif encountering human society, and thus giving us a fresh perspective on ourselves (a la Stranger in a Strange Land), and the book was fairly successful in that respect. It's a very hard premise to maintain, though, and I think that somewhat predictably, the attempt to maintain this premise was pretty uneven. Finally, there's a strong aspect of an unreliable narrator, which is used to interject a certain surreality into the book, and I think this was interesting and mostly successful, but also sometimes used more as a joke, and sometimes used a more serious literary device, and this back and forth made it harder for me to stay interested.

  18. 4 out of 5

    K

    Like my sister, who recommended this to me, I would normally not be turned on by a book about a monkey. But this was one of the departures from my reading comfort zone that actually paid off. In this wonderfully written novel, Bruno Littlemore recounts his autobiography -- his birth at the zoo, his participation on scientific experiments leading to increasing consciousness on his part and ultimately to his gaining the ability to speak, his participation in a variety of human interactions and expe Like my sister, who recommended this to me, I would normally not be turned on by a book about a monkey. But this was one of the departures from my reading comfort zone that actually paid off. In this wonderfully written novel, Bruno Littlemore recounts his autobiography -- his birth at the zoo, his participation on scientific experiments leading to increasing consciousness on his part and ultimately to his gaining the ability to speak, his participation in a variety of human interactions and experiences, and his finally committing a murder and being returned to captivity. Good story, interesting characters, and a lot to think about as Bruno's experiences and ambivalence toward the human race mimic those of any minority individual struggling to fit in with the dominant culture while simultaneously despising particular aspects of that group. Bruno's story also challenges our understanding of what it means to be human and whether, why, and how that differs from being an animal. Minus one star for some unnecessarily draggy parts and for the bestiality -- I consider myself a pretty liberal reader, but that was a bit much for my sensibilities. Still -- a worthwhile, enjoyable, and provocative read that I recommend.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Meg Elison

    This is sometimes an excellent book, and other times it's an awful one. There are fantastic descriptive passages that are riveting, then there are pages spent on turn-by-turn directions or the exact layout of an apartment, neither of which ever become important. There are flashes of intelligence in Bruno when he denies trichotillomania or interprets Caliban with startling insight, but then he fails to recognize marijuana and calls it something childish. Lush moments abruptly run aground in minut This is sometimes an excellent book, and other times it's an awful one. There are fantastic descriptive passages that are riveting, then there are pages spent on turn-by-turn directions or the exact layout of an apartment, neither of which ever become important. There are flashes of intelligence in Bruno when he denies trichotillomania or interprets Caliban with startling insight, but then he fails to recognize marijuana and calls it something childish. Lush moments abruptly run aground in minutiae. Exquisite moments of anguish dissipate into travel by train. This book was exasperatingly inconsistent. Next layer of annoyance: this is so obviously straining in every direction to be Lolita that it's laughable. If you're going to try to make a monkey out of a narrator, aim lower than Humbert Humbert. Arms too short to box with Nabokov. But this is Humbert the Homonculus, in love with Lydia rather than Lolita, coming home to kill Quilty nonetheless. If the author thinks any well-read reader is fooled, he is mistaken. Fascinating moments are lifted from the lives of Kanzi, Koko, and a nod is given to Clever Hans. The research is solid and the speculation is solid. But the construction is flawed, derivative, and rough. This was a disappointment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This book was quite unique. I've never quite read anything like it, and it's mostly in a good way. A monkey essentially becomes a human and falls in love with a human girl, who falls love with him in return. The evolution, as the title states is very gradual, and takes place throughout the book. The one thing I could say about this book that was negative was that it was written in a very pretentious language, as "indicated" by the narrator. However, it was definitely readable, as well as enjoyab This book was quite unique. I've never quite read anything like it, and it's mostly in a good way. A monkey essentially becomes a human and falls in love with a human girl, who falls love with him in return. The evolution, as the title states is very gradual, and takes place throughout the book. The one thing I could say about this book that was negative was that it was written in a very pretentious language, as "indicated" by the narrator. However, it was definitely readable, as well as enjoyable. There were many things that stuck out, in particular, some of the horrifying descriptions of both the perverse and violent things that occur in this book. I don't want to spoil them for anyone, but I will say that while they left me a bit squeamish, none of them made me want to stop reading this. In fact, I read this book fairly quickly, finishing the last 200 pages today in a marathon reading session. Overall, one of the better books this year!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sultan

    I'm reserving one-star reviews for books that I was unable to finish, and this was one of them. While Hale shows a great deal of potential as a writer, the tone and voice of this book were very uneven, fluctuating from pompous to crude to colloquial to intellectual—which would not necessarily be a negative thing if the transitions were handled smoothly, but, well, they're not. After 200 pages or so, the book starts to move along at a snail's pace—while I can appreciate the care that the author t I'm reserving one-star reviews for books that I was unable to finish, and this was one of them. While Hale shows a great deal of potential as a writer, the tone and voice of this book were very uneven, fluctuating from pompous to crude to colloquial to intellectual—which would not necessarily be a negative thing if the transitions were handled smoothly, but, well, they're not. After 200 pages or so, the book starts to move along at a snail's pace—while I can appreciate the care that the author takes in providing descriptions from a chimp's point of view (he does it well), there came a point at which these descriptions seemed to become more important than the character itself, thereby severely stalling both development and action. I put it down nearly two months ago after reading 250 pages or so, and I haven't felt the slightest inclination to return to it. Anyone who compares this book to Lolita deserves to be punched in the throat.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Whew. I finally finished this 576-page book! When I picked it up at the library, I was surprised to see how huge it was. Normally, I love thick books, but somehow I knew this wouldn't be a good thing here. Bruno Littlemore, a human trapped in an ape's body, is, to sum it up in one word: verbose. (See, I can do what he can't!) The other problem is that Hale crams too much in one novel. In doing so, he riffs on different things about our society - all of which is amusing and often on target. He's Whew. I finally finished this 576-page book! When I picked it up at the library, I was surprised to see how huge it was. Normally, I love thick books, but somehow I knew this wouldn't be a good thing here. Bruno Littlemore, a human trapped in an ape's body, is, to sum it up in one word: verbose. (See, I can do what he can't!) The other problem is that Hale crams too much in one novel. In doing so, he riffs on different things about our society - all of which is amusing and often on target. He's being lauded for taking a big risk with this novel - rightly so. If only it didn't feel as if the evolution was happening in real-time...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian Cowlishaw

    Very few books have made me ponder as much as this one has. It is a vast-ranging tour-de-force by the author through every conceivable emotion. It causes me despair--raw, naked envy as a writer awed by his characterizations, Bruno's "voice," and the winding journey taken by the plot. I'd love to teach a class at some point that includes this and other books on the subject of the nearness of apes to humans. I'd put in Kafka's story "A Report to an Academy" and Will Self's Great Apes, and find more Very few books have made me ponder as much as this one has. It is a vast-ranging tour-de-force by the author through every conceivable emotion. It causes me despair--raw, naked envy as a writer awed by his characterizations, Bruno's "voice," and the winding journey taken by the plot. I'd love to teach a class at some point that includes this and other books on the subject of the nearness of apes to humans. I'd put in Kafka's story "A Report to an Academy" and Will Self's Great Apes, and find more. Sadly, it'll surely never happen, as I'm lucky to have one course per academic year that I choose myself. The philosophy, theory, and literature would make such a wonderful brew.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    These are hairy times for fans of simian fiction. The autobiography of Tarzan's sidekick, "Me Cheeta," was mildly amusing, but Sara Gruen's silly "Ape House" left me dragging my knuckles on the floor, and Laurence Gonzales's "Lucy" read like something thrown out between the bars. Now, though, we've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your These are hairy times for fans of simian fiction. The autobiography of Tarzan's sidekick, "Me Cheeta," was mildly amusing, but Sara Gruen's silly "Ape House" left me dragging my knuckles on the floor, and Laurence Gonzales's "Lucy" read like something thrown out between the bars. Now, though, we've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest. Swinging through the absurd tale of a talking chimpanzee, Hale wraps his prehensile wit around humanity's deepest philosophical questions. From the magic of consciousness to the reifying function of language, the value of art and the morality of science, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book - the kind of thing Richard Powers might write while pumped up on laughing gas. (Even Bruno's name will send you snorting to the dictionary; it stands for "Behavioral Rearing in Ultroneous Noumenal Ontogensis.") When the novel's antics aren't making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think. No trip to the zoo, western Africa or even the mirror will ever be the same. For all its concentration on the mechanics of scientific research, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" doesn't raise as many questions about the possibility of animal consciousness as it does about the possibility of human consciousness. The loquacious narrator, Bruno, leapfrogs over anything Koko ever managed to pound out on his little keyboard. "I was an unusual case," he admits. "Being a scientific anomaly is such a burden." Taken from the Lincoln Park Zoo to a laboratory at the University of Chicago, young Bruno first impressed the scientists when he was offered a piece of fruit in a cognition test. "Did I dare to eat a peach?" he asks with a nod to T.S. Eliot and Genesis. "Indeed I did. In this way I fell from my state of innocence." Driven by the "very human desire for philosophical immortality," Bruno recites his life story to a young researcher, his "amanuensis," in a lab where he's being held for murder. "I can't say I blame them," he says, "for wanting to study me. I am interesting. Mine is an unusual case." What follows for hundreds (and hundreds!) of pages is the funny, sad and shocking tale of a stranger in our strange world, a place brought to account by an animal ashamed and proud of his own humanity. "Following your own example some several million years too late," he explains with his endearing grandiosity, "I climbed down from that tree to spend the rest of my life running from the yawning darkness of animal terror toward the light of fire stolen from the gods, and like you, I remain in a state of constant pursuit, never quite escaping the darkness, nor ever reaching the light." Bruno doesn't know why he learns so quickly - "My father never quite lost his touch of aboriginal uncouthness" - but under the tutelage of an autistic janitor and a very liberal-minded cognitive psychologist named Lydia Littlemore, he emerges from his "prelapsarian nudity" and enters the world of conscious thought, "the awesome thaumaturgy of mere language." The miraculous transformation of awakening into words is a process few of us remember, but it's fraught with euphoria and despair, all of which Bruno conveys. Hale, who grew up in Colorado and graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, demonstrates an extraordinary intellectual range, and only his wacky sense of humor can keep Bruno from coming off as a hirsute boor. "Ostentation is my style," the chimp says by way of apology. Scrambling through the whole canon of Western culture, he identifies with all the anxious outsiders - from Milton's Satan to Shakespeare's Caliban to Disney's Pinocchio - those inhuman characters who dared to thrust themselves into existence by speaking and making us question the nature of our own humanity. Linguistics may be the most interesting and prevalent theme of this novel, but its salacious subplot will attract more attention: "I'm sorry. It's true," Bruno says. "I am a deviant and depraved pervert: I have no desire to have sex with other chimps." In the late 1980s, a conflict with her research supervisor inspires Lydia Littlemore to take Bruno home with her, and soon the two of them are sleeping together - "like Anna and Vronsky." (Didn't former congressman J.D. Hayworth warn us about such abominations?) Their love, which dare not speak its name, eventually inspires violent protests and sends Bruno running underground for much of the novel. A romance between a scientist and her chimp sounds a lot creepier than it ever seems in the context of this story. Though candor sometimes encourages Bruno to "stray beyond the parameters of good taste," his interaction with Lydia is always convincingly portrayed as a loving, tender relationship. This is, of course, a squeamish subject some readers will not want to explore. "Obviously there was a sense of some deep-seated and dangerous taboo that our relationship violated," Bruno admits, but what the novel really wants to consider, in its own bizarre, cerebral and comic way, is the essential nature of love. "When it came to sex," Bruno says, "I had to make the Buberian moral shift from I/it to I/thou." Hale is a ghostly presence in this story, crouching behind irony and slapstick and intellectual satire, but surely he's most sincere in moments like this, when he tries to awaken in us the moral imagination we claim animals don't possess. Aping Oscar Wilde, Bruno quips, "I know that I am not fit to live in human society. But then again, who is?" Yes, the book's too long, too in love with its own mock-serious voice. "I was an irrepressible chatterbox," Bruno confesses. "Do I digress? Very well, then, I digress. I am large, I contain multitudes." There's something peevish about asking an ape who can quote Whitman to wrap things up, but certain themes get pounded on, and Bruno's episodic adventures across the United States sometimes have the feel of a first-time author embarking on the trip of a lifetime and determined to cram everything into his van. Around page 500, Bruno pleads, "There's too much to say!" But just when you want to stuff this chimp back in his cage, he comes up with some unforgettable new adventure, like his off-off-Broadway production of "The Tempest" that's absolutely transporting. So let Bruno run free. He's got a lot to tell us, and we've got a lot to learn. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    3.5/5 stars It's a very interesting book, to be sure. But I wouldn't exactly call it knowledge porn. I first came across it in a review of my favorite book, The Last Samurai, which was (accurately, in my opinion) given the label of knowledge porn, a category in which, according to the reviewer, this book also belongs (less accurately). That is a shame, but all the same, it was still an interesting story, and though it took me a while to get through (for various reasons, which can all be captured 3.5/5 stars It's a very interesting book, to be sure. But I wouldn't exactly call it knowledge porn. I first came across it in a review of my favorite book, The Last Samurai, which was (accurately, in my opinion) given the label of knowledge porn, a category in which, according to the reviewer, this book also belongs (less accurately). That is a shame, but all the same, it was still an interesting story, and though it took me a while to get through (for various reasons, which can all be captured by the single word "life" or, alternatively, if a bit less precisely, "2020"), I enjoyed reading it. The style is grandiose, almost to a fault but not quite. My favorite line has to be "All the world's a zoo, and all the men and women merely animals". That one is gonna stick with me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Peterson

    I read this book a number of years ago when I checked it out from the library because Entertainment Weekly did a review on it that had me intrigued. I liked it then and now having read it in a post-Shape of Water world I can say the story’s quality still holds up. Here we have both a loss of innocence and evolution story wrapped up in a very interesting enigma named Bruno. A chimpanzee that I can definitely say is the most human of any character I have seen in fiction. I mentioned this book for I read this book a number of years ago when I checked it out from the library because Entertainment Weekly did a review on it that had me intrigued. I liked it then and now having read it in a post-Shape of Water world I can say the story’s quality still holds up. Here we have both a loss of innocence and evolution story wrapped up in a very interesting enigma named Bruno. A chimpanzee that I can definitely say is the most human of any character I have seen in fiction. I mentioned this book for a college paper as books that would make great films if given the green light and while the aforementioned Shape of Water can maybe help this book along the subject matter might raise more than a few eyebrows for sure. But then again, something can always be controversial when it makes you think.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Blanton

    I don't know how to rate this. Did I like it? No. Was it good? Yes. My friend put it well: "I was fascinated and repelled in equal measure." This is disturbing and weird and occasionally funny and deep. I don't know how to rate this. Did I like it? No. Was it good? Yes. My friend put it well: "I was fascinated and repelled in equal measure." This is disturbing and weird and occasionally funny and deep.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Mclaughlin

    No idea how to rate this one...

  29. 4 out of 5

    M

    You know those moments when you pick up a book and it's love at first sight? Whatever it is that does it for you - language, premise, originality - grabs you from the beginning and never lets go, and you start to think that all the other books you've been reading were such a shameful waste of time because this - THIS - is the book. What's even crazier is I don't even know how I got this book to begin with - it showed up on my reserve list one day at the library, but I'm pretty sure God Himself (t You know those moments when you pick up a book and it's love at first sight? Whatever it is that does it for you - language, premise, originality - grabs you from the beginning and never lets go, and you start to think that all the other books you've been reading were such a shameful waste of time because this - THIS - is the book. What's even crazier is I don't even know how I got this book to begin with - it showed up on my reserve list one day at the library, but I'm pretty sure God Himself (though I can't see Him liking this book) said, "Marg has really not been reading enough of These Kinds of Books, that remind her why she loves reading in the first place. Here ya go, kiddo." Thanks, God. Bruno Littlemore is a monkey, ape, chimp, whatever, go ahead and stone me GR animal lovers because I will call a bonobo a hominoid or whatever (and I can't imagine I ever would have thought to pick up a book about a monkey, so, I do believe in miracles) who is penning his memoirs reflecting upon a most unusual existence. He started off as so many of his type do, behind bars at a zoo, having no knowledge of the outside world, only to be taken for experiments and discovered to be a most superior animal - one not that far from being human. Bruno's evolution is his de-apifying as he is seduced by the human world. He falls for the scientist who has been taking care of him, and crosses more and more boundaries until they all seem to slip away - except when they don't. I don't want to give away too much since, as is most unusual, this is so worth reading and going in with little knowledge that I don't want to spoil the ride, so I will instead extol the virtues of this novel. 1 - The writing. Benjamin Hale, you are awesome. Awesome. This is your first novel?? Seriously? Please don't let it be the last. The vocabulary, the precise sentences, the imagery, the metaphors. The beautiful comparisons to the Bible, Shakespeare, and pretty much everything wonderful. I didn't want to skip a sentence because I knew I would be missing out (hence it taking me longer to read this book than it normally would). I would have deducted a star for the occasional too much detail/convenient plot twists (frankly, once Bruno starts his own theatre company it all got to be a bit much) but the overwhelming amount of good outweighs that. 2 - The premise. Fascinating. SO thought provoking and intricate. In some ways this reminded me of Flowers for Algernon in that this is a real story of loss of innocence and whether or not people should remain who they are, reach higher, or if the reaching is an act of corruption. It also reminded me of Frankenstein in the way of science going too far and how important looks are. A warning to the reader - there is girl/monkey action which is totally gross. However, you can skim past and Bruno is so human like in the narrative that it doesn't even seem (so) awful. As an interesting aside, his lady friend shifts from hetero to homo to bestial which I think is such an interesting commentary in itself, but I need to wait until someone I know reads this to get into that. I will also say that very quickly you willingly suspend your disbelief in this story because the writing is so rich, but that suspension will be tested several times as the novel goes on and sometimes it's a bit much (the purple fingers never give Bruno away as he assimilates?) but again, for writing this good, just let it go. In short, this story challenges religious right wingers, as well as scientists, as well as animal activists, as well as what it means to be human. It is so very awesome and everyone must go read it now.

  30. 5 out of 5

    mark

    I struggle with this review – on the one hand it IS amazing and on the other – disappointing. I think Hale bit off a little more (Hehheh) than he could chew. (Hahahhehah, I’m really funny.) I was really into this story until page 400 and then I almost quit reading. I just didn’t care anymore about Bruno, or what and was happening to him. I knew what happened, and had decided that Hale, the author, was coming across as a nerdy creep. I know that’s harsh. This story of Bruno the chimp who acquirer I struggle with this review – on the one hand it IS amazing and on the other – disappointing. I think Hale bit off a little more (Hehheh) than he could chew. (Hahahhehah, I’m really funny.) I was really into this story until page 400 and then I almost quit reading. I just didn’t care anymore about Bruno, or what and was happening to him. I knew what happened, and had decided that Hale, the author, was coming across as a nerdy creep. I know that’s harsh. This story of Bruno the chimp who acquirers language and thus evolves into a ‘naked ape’ while his keeper and teacher and lover, a young, female, primatologist at the U. of Chicago, devolves, and loses the ability to speak (via a brain tumor) and dies; while Bruno is off on adventures in New York city, is just … what? A little too much the product of a nerdy creep, It is a very bold and ambitious subject he (the nerdy creep) took on – that of the Evolution of Man; and there is some really great writing here – such as his (the nerdy creep’s) descriptions of rain, which exemplifies the best and worst of this book. The writing is too much, too wordy, too long, and too metaphorical and too much of Hale’s drooling lust, and frustration and anger and rage come through – his own “eternal wax-and-wane of favor and denial, of futile labors and desires.” (p. 283). I’m going to EDIT his writing right here and now - and love him love the rain. [These are Hale’s words’ …]: Rain clouds loomed. … broke into rain …rain thrummed on the roof … then the spatter and crash of rain outside … down gushing rain … darkened the fabric of her shirt, glued it to her skin. I saw the rain glaze her skin. … rainwater steaming… rain plitted … I stuck my tongue out to catch the thin needles of rain. .. echoes of pounding raindrops. The echoes of rain crackling and the drumming on the roof warbled around in the big room, and waves of water crashed each other down the sides of the windows, warping the view of what lay outside the building, … (pages 47-49). A flash of lightning asks a question of the clouds … the thunder answers. Rain whips down … a needly spray. The air is mist. Raindrops patter … The rain is warm … a monsoon rain. The rain builds … drizzle becomes deluge, the rain comes thudding down … pelting the beach’s sand …splats of water … drenching everyone to the skin. Now the wind blows the rain sideways … the rain lashes the earth with thick ropes of water … The rain crashes down with renewed ferocity … The rain slows to a dribble, and then a patter, and then we cannot tell if it is still raining … (pages 504-506). I didn’t make that up. There are 455 pages between those two rain rampages. I feel for this boy, and he is still a boy of 28 years. I feel for the whole generation – we (fifty and sixty-somethings’) did really mess these kids up (and yes, in addition, the whole f’ing planet). This is a thought provoking book, but it is far too long and tedious. (Maybe it should have been a graphic novel?) I might—might—just pick up Hale’s next book, just to see how he’s evolved. Hahaheehahaaaa … . I am funny.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.