The meanings of Dürer’s rhino, Mozart’s starling, Darwin’s tortoise and others explored with wild creativeness and pyrotechnic prose
Elena Passarello begins this extraordinary e-book with the picture of Yuka, a woolly mammoth chiselled from the softening permafrost by Siberian tusk hunters in 2010. First a rounded hoof comes into view, then a hollowed-out eye and at last the flank nonetheless bearing proof of the gash that should have finished for younger Yuka – she was not more than 10 years previous when she died – practically 40 millennia in the past. Most stunning of all, although, is the burning smoulder of her pelt, which has saved to its unconvincing ginger-red regardless of the passing centuries. Whoever knew that woolly mammoths shared their hair color with dime-store dolls?
As Yuka is flopped on to the snowmobile it’s not her odd dislocations – most of her backbone is gone though her legs stay inflexible – that qualify as one of many “curious poses” of the e-book’s title (taken by the way from a line in “When Doves Cry” by Prince). It’s what occurs subsequent, Passarello suggests, that stretches and shrinks Yuka into one thing really unusual. First she turns into the item of onerous monetary bargaining because the tusk hunters conceal her carcass in a frozen cave and look forward to the best bidder. Then, when the scientists lastly get their arms on her, she morphs into the poster baby for a “rewilding” initiative that goals to make extinct breeds dwell once more by splicing their historical DNA into the embryo of their nearest residing kin.
Passarello strikes between musicology, biography and the golden throat of a fowl mind with virtuosic ease