- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Knopf (March 10, 2015)
From the critically acclaimed author of Atlas of Unknowns and Aerogrammes, a tour de force set in South India that plumbs the moral complexities of the ivory trade through the eyes of a poacher, a documentary filmmaker, and, in a feat of audacious imagination, an infamous elephant known as the Gravedigger.
Buy, read, and discuss The Tusk that Did the Damage
TANIA JAMES is the author of the novel Atlas of Unknowns and the short-story collection Aerogrammes. Her fiction has appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Guernica, One Story, A Public Space, and The Kenyon Review. She lives in Washington, DC.
There is a meme going around Facebook – a picture of an elephant kept in solitary confinement in a zoo, and the poor creature is so lonely that she’s holding her own tail. That image was burned into my brain, and kept resurfacing while I read this book, The Tusk that Did the Damage, and it really was the perfect image.
It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this book, because so much of it is about the awful things we do to elephants in exchange for money, but it was so well written, and well crafted, that I can’t not say it. Tania James gave us the expected POVs of the filmmakers (Emma is my favorite human in the book, though Manu is a close second) and the poachers, but then, in a bold move, she also let us see things from The Gravedigger’s point of view and I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job at getting inside an elephant’s head.
Poaching specifically, and trophy hunting in general, are activities that have never made sense to me. I mean, I understand responsible hunting when you use the entire animal – for food, for clothing, etc – but killing majestic creatures for the bragging rights or the cash is something that I, as someone who works in pet rescue, find unconscionable, so you’d better believe I was in tears for a lot of this novel.
And yet, I would still recommend it, because it’s an important story, and a well-told one. Fiction serves to entertain, yes, but it can also be a teaching tool. James teaches us about elephants, about ivory, about what we as humans are capable of – the good and the bad – and every lesson is an important one.
Read this book. It may not change your life, but it will definitely change your perspective on elephants.
Goes well with vegetable curry and African beer.
Win a copy of The Tusk that Did the Damage
Monday, March 9th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, March 10th: The Feminist Texican Reads
Wednesday, March 11th: Life is Story
Thursday, March 12th: Books on the Table
Monday, March 16th: BookNAround
Wednesday, March 18th: 100 Pages a Day
Thursday, March 19th: Conceptual Reception
Monday, March 23rd: She Treads Softly
Tuesday, March 24th: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, March 25th: Julz Reads
Thursday, March 26th: Under My Apple Tree
Monday, March 30th: Read Her Like An Open Book
Tuesday, March 31st: My Bookshelf
Wednesday, April 1st: Bibliotica – That’s ME!!!
Monday, April 6th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, April 7th: Read. Run. Breathe.
Wednesday, April 8th: Book Snob
Thursday, April 9th: Suko’s Notebook