The Feral Issue. That’s right feral. In other words: animal studies. Guest editor Heather Steffen introduces this special feature section by explaining that animal studies has assumed increasing prominence over the last decade, but that our preoccupation with non-human animals is probably as old as the first human. As for this feral issue of the magazine, “if it has a leaning, it is to build a cultural materialist account of animals in our world…a cluster of essays that look at animals in literature, theory, the military, law, cultural history, and food production.” The work varies widely from personal accounts of relationships to animals and their larger implications, as in John Fried’s “This Treatment Isn’t in Any Way Cruel,” to analysis of the writing of Kenneth Burke by the guest editor, to an interview with vegan eco-feminist writer Carol J. Adams. A wide range of views and perspectives through essays, poems, short fiction, interviews, and reviews of animal studies publications is presented and offer the reader an excellent introduction to this growing field.
This issue of the journal also includes a special section of “writing from prison,” introduced by Doran Larson (“The People vs. The People”); an interview with Mike Davis and another with Andrew Ross; a few non-feral poems and stories; and an essay by Michael DuPuis (“Michael Crow, Manager of the New American University”), an analysis of the role of university presidents, in a section titled Revaluation. Davis, a public intellectual/socialist activist is interviewed by Victor Cohen, and the account of his political activities over the last 40 years is worthwhile. Best response of all: when asked “what was your role in the Communist Party?” he replied “fighting the Russians.” Cultural critic Andrew Ross is interviewed by Jeffrey J. Williams. Best response: when asked “How do you see it when you look back on your work? Ross replied, “I don’t look back very much; much of it is too embarrassing.”
I liked very much Nancy Ford Dugan’s short-short “GPS for the Car-less,” which begins: “Don’t even think of giving up your job in this economy, even if it bores you silly and they keep asking you to remove your files from their precious windowsills. This is not self-fulfillment time, despite the letter you got in the mail inviting you to live your best life with special discounted rate on Oprah magazine. Now is not the time.” And which concludes with these lines: “Look on the bright side. You may pay fewer taxes next year, when your job (like your ring, your nest egg, like your youth, like your parents, like your mental acuity, like Danny…) is long gone. Go ahead. Live your best life.” That’s what the minnesota review is clearly trying to help us do.