Rich Shapero, ‘Wild Animals’

America has reacted angrily to Shapiro’s debut novel and its method of distribution (free copies at festivals and paying actors to ‘demonstrate’ against the book.) It has been heralded as the ‘Worst book ever written’ numerous times. Shapero’s protagonist, Sam, is a disenchanted Berkley graduate who follows a ‘wild, inner calling,’ in the Alaskan wilderness (his plight aided generously by LSD). Sam, known as ‘Ransom’, grows obsessed with the wisdom of a mountain ram (‘Ram,’ ‘Ransom,’ geddit?), subsequently isolating his girlfriend, Lindy.

An example of the inadvertent humour is when Ransom explains his ‘calling’ to Lindy by saying: ‘Maybe it was never human love I wanted.’ (Such utterances combined with his infatuation with a ram certainly tickled my funny bone, though perhaps I missed a serious point?). The imagery is unusual but overly sentimental, made ridiculous by the endless ram symbolism. The animal is given demigod status and portrayed as the path to righteousness. The blurb reveals the entire plot – Ransom eventually transforms into the Ram he admires, only to be torn to shreds by wolves at the end. One of the most baffling books I have ever read, with the author applauding the actions of ‘Ransom’ throughout the book. Bizarre.