Oct 24, 2008


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


  1. I haven't yet read anything by Jane Smiley, but this one sounds more interesting to me than most. Great review, as always!

  2. Anonymous10/28/2008

    I haven't read Moo (although I do own it) but have read A Thousand Acres which I remember enjoying.

  3. Anonymous10/28/2008

    I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it. Smiley is an interesting writer, I think, hard to pigeon hole. I also enjoyed 1000 acres and another one which title escapes me.

  4. I just finished A Thousand Acres (review over at my blog) and loved it. I'm thinking I need to read all of her stuff (I loved her book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel) and think she has a relatively great sensibility about writing.

    I'm definitely going to give this one a read. Great review, thanks.


Comments are screened due to spam.