by Jane Smiley
I like reading about animals. I have fond memories of college. And one of my favorite books, Tam Lin, is set on a college campus. So on those slim associations I picked this book up with curiosity at a recent library sale. I wasn't disappointed. Moo is about an agricultural university in the midwest. Although horticulture, animal husbandry and cop sciences are featured, this story is really focused on people. All the different kinds of people who intermingle their lives at the university. Students, professors and groundskeepers. Wives of the professors, workers in the cafeteria and the dean himself. A plethora of very different characters, often ignorant of how they really affect each other. There are secretaries with secret machinations, a farmer with a invention in his barn, a student who eavesdrops on his roommates and works them into his writing assignments, and in the middle of campus, an enormous hog living in an abandoned building- part of someone's experiment on the porcine lifespan (reminiscent of The Good Good Pig). The inside look at academia in Moo is full of dry humor and ironic observations. Every few pages or so I burst out laughing- until I got a third way through the book. Then some of the incidents became more sobering. And I really could have done without the explicit details in the chapter about who was sleeping with whom. The way emphasized text was presented in all caps instead of italicized bugged me for a while, too. It was still good, though. Intriguing to the end. I want to read more by this author now, although I've heard that A Thousand Acres is quite different from Moo.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 414 pages, 1995