Saturday, November 24, 2012

Jessica Pierce

Jessica Pierce has taught and written about philosophy for many years. She is the author of a number of books, including Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics and The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives.

Earlier this month I asked Pierce what she was reading.  Her reply:
I was exposed to some of the most marvelous literary works long before I was actually capable of reading them for myself. Every night, from before I can remember to long past when I was too old, my father would read to me as I went to sleep. We read childhood classics like James and the Giant Peach, all the Little House on the Prairie books, and all the Wizard of Oz books. We worked our way into more advanced material: Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Oliver Twist. And we journeyed through The Iliad and The Odyssey. You might think that Homeric poetry would bore a child to tears, but you would be wrong (at least in my case): I was utterly enthralled by the wild adventures of Odysseus and his men.

Although there is something very powerful about hearing Homer’s epic poem, and about participating in some small way in the oral tradition, I set about reading the story (for the third or fourth time) a month or two ago. I had several motivations. First of all, my dog Ody (short for, and named in honor of, Odysseus) died recently, and I felt that reading the poem would be one way to honor his life. Like the human Odysseus, my Ody’s life was full of hardship and misadventure. The other motivation for revisiting The Odyssey is that I’ve been thinking a lot about myth and ritual, and The Odyssey is overflowing with myth that still resonates today. I was particularly attuned, this time through, to the role of animals in the story and about “appropriate” human relations to animals. The Cattle of the Sun story was particularly interesting in this regard.

I always have at least one “lighter” book going, and my latest pick was Tana French’s newest story, Broken Harbor. It is a psychological murder mystery, set in Ireland and featuring Murder squad’s rough-around-the-edges Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy (familiar from French’s earlier book Faithful Place), his rookie partner Richie, and (to complicate things) Scorcher’s mentally ill sister. French’s murder mysteries are complex and eerie, and I love becoming immersed in her descriptions of Ireland. Her heroes always have dark histories that are intertwined in surprising ways with the cases they are trying to solve.
Learn more about The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives at Jessica Pierce's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Pierce and Maya.

--Marshal Zeringue