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Raising the Peaceable Kingdom: What Animals Can Teach Us about the Social Origins of Tolerance and Friendshipby Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Synopses & Reviews
“I did not want to fail, because the stakes were too high. After all, I was after nothing less than the secret of human harmony.” The challenge that bestselling author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson set for himself was formidable: to create a true interspecies peaceable kingdom within his own household. He hoped to learn if several different species–some, natural enemies–raised together from an early age could live peacefully side by side. So he took into his home seven young animals–a kitten, a rabbit, two rats, two chickens, and a puppy–and set about observing the whole process of socialization (or non-socialization) from the very beginning.
The initial results were mixed. Tamaiti, the kitten, made herself instantly comfortable, but Hohepa, the Flemish giant rabbit, remained inscrutably reserved. Kia and Ora, the rats, slept all day and became active at night. Moa and Moana, the Polish frizzle chickens, bonded with each other but to no one else. Mika, the stray pup, barked much too much. But as the hours and days passed in this never-before-attempted environment, the animals began to change in startling ways, as Masson wondered which animals would bond, and which would recoil from one another? Can animals, including humans, truly change when direct experience tells them its safe to do so? Would the experiment end in triumph, or in tragedy?
Raising the Peaceable Kingdom poses universal questions weve all had about relationships, social strife, and peaceful coexistence. In its intimations of the potential for planetary harmony, this elegantly written book is a work of major significance. As a unique account of life in an interspecies community, it offers unmitigated enchantment, joy, and delight.
"Masson (When Elephants Weep) records his attempt to 'raise together a kitten, a puppy, a bunny, a chick, and a baby rat' in hopes that this 'might offer some lessons to us humans' on how to avoid bigotry and war. The result hovers between science and cute animal stories, with not enough of either to succeed. Masson tells us a great deal about handpicking the animals, choosing a cat bred not to hunt and a nonaggressive dog, but not much about how he introduces them to one another and their changeable living situations. His discoveries about the animals seldom rise above the banal (rats have delicate ears; chickens eat insects). More of his attention goes to agonizing about reading the animals' emotions and fretting over — but not grappling with — the conflict inherent in wanting to provide the animals with as natural a life as possible while impatiently expecting them to overcome hardwired reactions to predators and prey. In the end, some of the animals become buddies, but one rat dies under mysterious circumstances, and the 'peaceable kingdom' proves stressful for the dog. Masson's peaceable kingdom seems unattainable fantasy. B&w photos. Agent, Elaine Markson. (On sale Sept. 27)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, former psychoanalyst and ex-projects director of the Sigmund Freud Archives, is the bestselling author of more than a dozen books, including Slipping into Paradise, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, Dogs Never Lie About Love, and When Elephants Weep. A longtime resident of Berkeley, California, he now lives in New Zealand with his wife, two sons, and several animal friends.
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