Jul 19, 2018


How I Took a Holiday from Being Human
by Thomas Thwaites

I have read some strange, outlandish books in my time. This one tops them all. It's about a designer's unique project: to turn himself into a goat. Literally. He wants to escape the stresses of modern human existence, by experiencing life as an animal. He visits a shaman to explore what animal he could connect with more easily (the original plan was to become an elephant), studies the mystical connections people have tried to make with animals over the centuries, goes to a goat sanctuary to learn more about their behavior, visits a neuroscientist to find out if he can alter his brain using magnetism or electricity to reduce his ability to talk, goes to a prosthetics lab to have extensions made for his arms, and designs springs for his legs to make himself walk on all fours kind of like a goat, and goes to another specialist about making himself an artificial rumen, so he can chew up grass, ferment it during the day to break down cellulose, and heat it in a pressure cooker over a campfire so he can eat it at night. You'd think it all a huge joke, except there are photographs documenting the whole process. He also visited a university dissection lab- they had never autopsied a goat before- so he could take part in that and see for himself how the animal was put together. (Even so, his attempts to reassemble the skeleton later were laughable- I don't know why he didn't look at photos a complete skeleton; instead he made up some outlandish sculpture of it standing in human posture, with the leg bones in all the wrong places).

In every single case, the specialists he consulted strongly advised him not to do what he was planning. He did it anyway. He got his prosthetics made, had a small team of supporters, made a kind of costume, and travelling to the Alps to join an actual herd of goats. (The goats' owner was, understandably, very surprised). While earlier in the book there was plenty of philosophical thought on the state of animal minds and such, at the end the narrative is very short on details. He found the prosthetics and unnatural posture very painful over time, that he couldn't keep up with the goats, and even though he said the grass stew he made was tasty, I bet it wasn't good nutrition for a human. Evidently he spent a little bit of time mingling with a goat herd on a pasture, and then climbed a mountain path by himself. None of this is described very well, the text at this point is so brief, although there are plenty of photos.

I was intrigued in a kind of disbelieving way through the first part of the book, it was so darn wacky- but hugely disappointed at the ending. He didn't discuss at all whether or not he found peace of mind hanging out with the goats. After all the effort he made to actually put the project into action and be there, I expected some kind of evaluation about how it all turned out, what he learned, something. Nope. Nada. I got the sense he was probably ready to be done with it all- but annoyed that he didn't discuss it or make any kind of conclusion. That was really frustrating for the reader.

I got this book at a library sale.

Rating: 3/5                207 pages, 2016

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