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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.

 

SPOILER ALERT!

Book 48/100: The Fox and the Hound by Daniel P. Mannix

The Fox and The Hound - Daniel P. Mannix

Although I expected this to be far less saccharine than Disney's version, I didn't expect it to be so stark. This is not a book about the complicated friendship between a hunting dog and a fox, but instead about a lifelong hunt of one particular fox, spurred on by the hatred of one particular hunter. Copper wants nothing more than to track down Tod so that his master can kill him -- and it stays as straightforward as that.

The book mostly follows Tod's perspective as he grows, mates, ages, and eventually dies. Woven throughout his lifetime are the many ways in which Copper and his Master attempt to catch him -- traditionally hunting, professional huntings, trapping, poison, etc. -- and the ways that he manages to elude them. Although I have never read Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, I find myself feeling that this book is essentially Moby Dick with a fox instead of a whale.

I admire Mannix's restraint in not making the animal characters too human -- they never talk even to one another, and his writing really does take you deep inside the world and perspective of animals in a way that I have only ever encountered in the wolves in Eye of the Wolf. The book is well-written and the descriptions evocative. It's also quite dark, and I found myself wondering who the intended audience is -- its descriptions of mating and animal carnage make it seem a questionable choice for kids, especially those who are animal lovers. Twice, Tod's litters and mates are killed.] My library copy has a YA sticker on it, perhaps just because its too mature for kids and animal stories are rather out of fashion with adults.

For all this book's technical and artistic accomplishments, my main complaint is this: it's boring.

When I was a child, I used to flip through books on the library shelves looking for quotation marks before I decided to check them out, and I put anything back on the shelf that didn't have much dialogue. My tastes in this regard haven't changed much -- When I'm about to read an "animal book," I still look for quotation marks, knowing I'll enjoy the book more if the animals talk. This is not necessarily at odds with a realistic portrayal of animals -- Bambi managed to combine animal dialogue and realism.

Reading about Copper's experiences scenting out trails gave me a deeper appreciating for my own dogs snuffling through the grass in search of God knows what, and prompted me to be more patient when he is distracted on our walks. But I really did not need chapters upon chapters describing how a hound hunts its prey -- it was established well in the opening and just got repetitive after that. If this book were about 100 pages shorter, it might have earned itself a higher star rating. This was one of those stories in which I thought it would be no great loss to pick up the abridged copy.