The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Benjamin Hale's life long fascination with the primate house at his local zoo became the idea behind this novel. The idea of a memoir from the perspective of a neurotic hyper-intelligent perverse chimpanzee who is delivering his life story to his therapist is a great conceit for a novel. Hale's entertaining approach of capturing the voice of the character is apparent, as the reader will notice it is speech driven. Many heavy questions rised throughout the book such as what differentiates animal consciousness from human consciousness, and humanity from animality.

— Mike, Albuquerque

February 2011 Indie Next List

“The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a serious novel that manages to transform an interspecies love story into a journey into language, humanity, life and death. It cleverly challenges the reader to explore ancient philosophical themes while sharing a love story between a woman and a chimpanzee, which includes some very funny moments. The story leaves you thinking deeply about what it means to be human. Open the book - and your mind - and let Benjamin Hale take you away.”
— Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA


Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

About the Author

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to complete his novel, which also went on to win a Michener-Copernicus Award. He has been a night shift baker, a security guard, a trompe l'oeil painter, a pizza deliverer, a cartoonist, an illustrator and a technical writer. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.

Praise For…

"The most talented and intriguing young writer I've met in years. A writer with a capital W. . . It's like being a baseball scout in Oklahoma in the late 1940s and seeing this young kid running around centerfield, and you ask the guy next to you, 'Who's that?' And the guy says, 'I don't know, some kid named Mickey Mantle.'"—--Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!, The Extra Man and the current HBO series Bored to Death

"An enormous, glorious rattlebag of a book. Benjamin Hale's extremely loud debut has echoes of the acerbic musings of Humbert Humbert and the high-pitched shrieking of Oskar Matzerath. Hale's narrator, Bruno Littlemore, is a bouncing, pleading, longing, lost, loony, bleeding, pleading, laughing, beseeching wonder."—--Edward Carey, author of Observatory Mansions and Alva & Irva

"Benjamin Hale is a writer of rare and exciting talent. We'll be reading his books for years. Dive in."—--Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead

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"Hale's novel is so stuffed with allusions high and low, so rich with philosophical interest, that a reviewer risks making it sound ponderous or unwelcoming. So let's get this out of the way: THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is an absolute pleasure. Much of the pleasure comes from the book's voice . . . There is a Bellovian exhuberance befitting a Chicago-born autodidact . . . There's also great pleasure in the audacity of the story itself. THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE announces that Benjamin Hale is himself a fully evolved as a writer, taking on big themes, intent on fitting the world into his work. Hale's daring is most obvious in his portrayal of the relationship between Bruno and Lydia, which eventually breaks the one sexual taboo even Nabokov wouldn't touch . . . Ultimately the point of these scenes is not to shock us but to ask what fundamentally makes us human, what differences inhere between a creature like Lydia and a creature like Bruno that disqualify the latter from the full range of human affection."

Christopher Beha, New York Times Book Review

"We've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest . . . "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book - the kind of thing Richard Powers might write while pumped up on laughing gas . . . When the novel's antics aren't making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think. No trip to the zoo, western Africa or even the mirror will ever be the same . . . funny, sad and shocking . . . extraordinary intellectual range. . . But just when you want to stuff this chimp back in his cage, he comes up with some unforgettable new adventure, like his off-off-Broadway production of "The Tempest" that's absolutely transporting. So let Bruno run free. He's got a lot to tell us, and we've got a lot to learn."—Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Hale's exuberant début is the bildungsroman of Bruno, a chimp born in a zoo who forsakes his animalhood and ends up, hairless and human-nosed, imprisoned for a crime of passion. His hyperallusive, Nabokovian confession, dictated to an amanuensis, is the tale of "a first-generation immigrant to the human species," encompassing Milton, Whitman, Darwin, Diogenes, and Kafka. Along the way, Bruno becomes an experimental test subject, an Expressionist painter, a Shakespearean actor, and a murderer. He also becomes a lover-but the story doesn't stray into bestiality. (When the pair do consummate, he probes her in disbelief, as "Caravaggio's Thomas the Doubter does to the wound of the resurrected Christ.") The lyrical flourishes can become theatrical, and, toward the end, the narrative gets baggy, but Hale's relish for his subject, and his subject's relish for language, never flags."—The New Yorker

"Completely different . . . The language, the voice of this novelist and this character, are so strong that even as outrageous and grotesque and as angry as this book is, it is totally convincing. If you ever read Frankenstein, could you really believe that the monster would talk this way? Well this is the same - you buy into this from the first page . . . It is so beautifully written. The voice of this novelist is so intelligent, so exciting, the language is so rich . . . astounding . . . If you liked the book ROOM, you'll love this book . . . I mean, this is disturbing, but you'll fall in love with it."—Bill Goldstein, NBC's Weekend Today

This novel holds a remarkable, riotous mirror to mankind.—Booklist (starred review)

"[This book] offers all those things we ask of our novels: rich entertainment and comedy, emotional sincerity that isn't cloying, and the ability to satisfy the immense ambition it sets for itself.

Jacob Silverman, Publishers Marketplace

Product Details
ISBN: 9780446571586
ISBN-10: 044657158X
Publisher: Twelve
Publication Date: February 13th, 2012
Pages: 592
Language: English