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"A very human angle on what it means to be endangered and waiting for extinction" - I'm With the Bears reviewed on The Short Review

Kishani Widyaratna16 November 2011

Pauline Masurel of The Short Review has reviewed I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet, royalties from the sale of which will go to, an international grassroots movement working to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Bill McKibben has written the introduction to the collection and Masurel used his arrest while protesting against the tar sands pipeline to highlight the controversial issues raised by the stories in the collection. She opened her review by quoting him writing about the tar sands battle:

This is really, really important. Jim Hansen, the world's most important climatologist, has said that if we burn these tar sands in a big way it will be "essentially game over for the climate." That's worth reading again. The oil companies and the Koch Bros are willing to take a few years of big profits in return for cratering the planet's climate system.

In a warm and in-depth review, Masurel noted that the book "aims to show that fiction can speak as persuasively as fact in making the point about the wounds we are inflicting upon our own planet" and does so with "an impressive array of internationally-acclaimed authors". While wary of finding the content preachy, Masurel happily found "a lot of variety in tone and subject matter and the authors' approach to the topic."

On the tone of the stories, she went on to say that many of them have "a tinge of sadness despite the jokey style". Praising the humor of Toby Litt and Nathaniel Rich's contributions, Masurel commended the high impact of the stories by Helen Simpson and David Mitchell:

Helen Simpson's contribution is a diary account and possibly the most terrifying vision of societal breakdown to go with climate destruction. David Mitchell's The Siphoners is also a scarey vision of the future, featuring a story within a story, reminiscent of the complexity of his novel Cloud Atlas. But it also involves a sobering reflection upon the possibilities and implications of population control.

However, it was Lydia Millet's tale, that Masurel found particularly affecting:

My favourite stories in the book take a more oblique angle on the theme. In Lydia Millet's Zoogoing there is no immediate, overt environmental angle. Initially this seems to be the story of someone who likes getting too close for most people's comfort to animals in zoos. But the story goes on to consider a very human angle on what it means to be endangered and waiting for extinction.

She concluded that:

One of the impressive features of this collection is the variety of different approaches to the topic, including reflections upon the numerous different ways in which we have trashed our planet, or at least exploited it, and may one day be called to account.

Visit The Short Review to read the review in full.

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