Like many a vagina-bearing being, Intern Alexis is a sucker for the heartwarming animal stories. Specifically, tales of interspecies BFFs — inseparable kittens and puppies, for example — really gets her menses going, so this week's edition of the Times Book Review was especially coo-worthy with its children's book section focued on interspecies mingling. Lest you think this week is all fluff, however, there's plenty of whiny bitches and anal musings from Dwight Garner. After the jump, Alexis' guide to faking your own literacy.

Letters

Oh, it was an entertaining day of mixed messages on the letters page! Harry Lander of New York writes in complaining that Sara Wheeler's review of "The Lost Men" is "not a review at all - it's the crib notes! Of the 53 sentences in the 'review,' exactly four comment on the writing and composition and 48 retell the story." Then, Robley Wilson of Orlando, Fla. Writes in: "When the editors of the Book Review make their assignments, do they ever say to the chosen reviewer, 'Remember: Your review should be about the book?'? The more of your reviews I read, the more I wonder." Good points, all. Still, that's a lot of whine coming from the paper on a Sunday; We might not be able to provide enough cheese to go with it.


Interspecies mingling

There are few things in this world we love more than when different species become friends. For example, we nearly died when we learned about the owl and the dog, the squirrel and the dog, and, of course, the tortoise and the hippo! We're the types of people to forward these articles to every poor soul in our address book and put little notes saying "Can't we all just get along?" and
such.

So you can imagine how completely blown away we were when we saw that the children's book section devoted a page to four new books about interspecies mingling. Two focus on the famous hippo and tortoise rendez-vous and the others, "Chicken and Cat" and "Lost and Found" revolve around a chicken and a cat and a boy and a penguin, respectively. Sarah Ellis's last paragraph made us a shed a tear. She writes:

The hope of interspecies relationships, which is of course just an echo of the hope that we can get along among ourselves, may not lie so much in what we have in common (mud color, lumpy shape) or in shared pleasures and values (gardening) but simply in paying attention to one another, in listening to one another's stories and in trying to give one another what we need.

Well frickin said. We love that.


Double Lives: American Writers' Friendships
By Richard Lingeman
Reviewed by Roy Blount Jr.

Speaking of inter-species relationships, Roy Blount Jr. reviews Richard Lingeman's study of seven literary friendships. The review was quite enjoyable, especially when Bount Jr., "BJ" as we like to call him, went a little c-c-razy and starts rambling on about first names...

Odd to think of addressing Hemingway as "Ernest." Which is what Scott called him, we gather from this book. Of course Fitzgerald had known Hemingway since they were both in their 20's. You wouldn't address someone who once wrote to you, as did Hemingway to Fitzgerald, "Oh... I'd get maudlin how damned swell you are" - you wouldn't address someone like that as "Papa." Even if by some chance he were your papa. And "Ernie" - out of the question.

Not odd, on the other hand, to think of addressing Fitzgerald as "Scott." Even though he doesn't seem like a Scott, any more than Hemingway seems like an Ernest. Fitzgerald's actual first name, Francis, would have suited him more: soft, androgynous. Ernest was the alpha - the more aggressively insecure - male of that pair...

He finds no evidence, however, to support either the Brokeback rumors about Hemingway and Fitzgerald, in their day...

Hm, that's too bad, because we think Ernest was totally the hippo to Scott's tortoise.


Inside the List

Reading About Reading: When Puppies Are Friends With Owls

Dwight Garner, in his weekly "Inside the List" column notices that the cover of Mike Leonard's "The Ride of Our Lives: Roadside Lessons of an American Family" looks "weirdly similar to the cover of Mitch Albom's mega-selling 1997 book 'Tuesdays with Morrie.' It's all there - the same Time magazine-like red border, a similar typeface and mix of upper- and lowercase words." He goes on to claim that this form of flattery "is a bit more brazen than most." He then quotes an anonymous book designer saying that, "it's odd to want your book to look like 'Tuesdays with Morrie,' which has one of the least attractive dust jackets of all time." That may be true, but call us deaf, dumb, mute and colorblind — we just don't, honest to goodnessly, think that the two book jackets look that similar at all!

OK, they both have red borders and both, albeit very differently, play with different font sizes, but there is nothing brazen about this! That said, we think we're going to hold off on coining the phrase "The Ride of Our Lives: Roadside Lessons of an American Family-gate."