Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Tiger

Every once in a while, I read something completely different than my standard fare. This time, it was John Vaillant's The Tiger. I don't think I have ever read anything like this before, and I mean that as a compliment. Vaillant's style is simple and competent—nothing extraordinary, but it gets the job done; his true gift, however, is his choice of subject matter: to read The Tiger is to step into a completely alien world. The central narrative of the story—the hunting of a man-eating Siberian tiger—could be told in ten pages; Vaillant stretches it into a 352-page book, with a steady stream of tangential sections giving context and background. Normally, I would find this irritating, but each of the tangents is fascinating. In fact, Vaillant could just as easily have switched the central narrative with nearly any of the tangents, and generated as interesting a book.

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