In this episode of the Sewanee Review Podcast, Elena Passarello and assistant editor Jennie Vite discuss Passarello’s latest collection, Animals Strike Curious Poses, a series of essays about notable animals, both historical and mythical.
While primarily taking animals as her subject, Passarello explains that in the writing she discovered a truth about her own writing process: “I think I figured out kind of halfway through putting the essays together that this is just a book about human animals. When people decide to do something or tell stories about nonhuman animals, it’s a mirror. They’re really just telling stories about themselves.”
The two discuss a number of topics from anthropomorphism, to Shakespeare, and Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” And while the fabulist quality of her essays treads the line between fact and fiction, Passarello explains “that’s what literary storytelling is, using the parameters of humanity to recount the complications of humanity . . . and while I think I have a greater sense of the boundaries of human consciousness in terms of reporting the realities of other specimens in the world, I also feel more comfortable with personifying animals because I’m never going to be able to do anything but that.”
In addition to Animals Strike Curious Poses, Passarello is the author of Let Me Clear My Throat, an examination of the human voice. She teaches in the MFA program at Oregon State University, and serves as nonfiction editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. She is co-editor of the In Place book series from West Virginia University Press and is a board member for the largest international conference on nonfiction, NonfictionNow.
The Sewanee Review Podcast is recorded in the Ralston Listening Room at the University of the South. This episode is produced by Jennie Vite and edited by ProPodcast Solutions with music by Annie Bowers. Don’t miss any of our conversations with some of today’s best writers. Subscribe to the Sewanee Review Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Elena Passarello’s books are available for purchase from Bookshop.org.