Thursday, November 16, 2023

Ten top books about nonhuman consciousness

Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of the novel A Questionable Shape (2013), which received the Bard Fiction Prize and was a finalist for The Believer Book Award, and the story collection White Dialogues (2017), winner of the Rome Prize for Literature 2018–19 and named a best book of 2017 by Bookforum.

Sims's newest book is the story collection, Other Minds and Other Stories (2023).

At Electric Lit he tagged ten books that "take the imaginability of other minds as their explicit subject." One title on the list:
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale

Narrated by a hyperintelligent, hyperverbal chimpanzee who has taught himself human language, fallen into forbidden love with his primatologist, and committed murder, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore reads like Lolita by way of Lincoln Park Zoo. Bruno’s preening erudition, his murderer’s fancy prose style, and his insights into “anthropo-chauvinism” all mark him as the hybrid of Humbert Humbert and Rotpeter, the ape narrator of Kafka’s “A Report To An Academy” (Bruno actually claims Rotpeter as his father, making this novel a semi-sequel to Kafka’s story). Like them, Bruno is at his most charismatic when he’s serving as a funhouse mirror test, reflecting humanity back to his reader all defamiliarized and distorted, and reminding us “how feebly you people know yourselves.” In his autodidactically omnivorous riffs on history and art—touching on everything from Shakespeare to Sesame Street, from Paradise Lost to Pinocchio—he proves that he knows us better: “I am an animal with a human tongue, a human brain, and human desires,” he writes, “the most human among them to be more than what I am.”
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore.

--Marshal Zeringue