There is a cute and present danger lurking out there--in the wild, in the zoos, and sometimes even in our very own homes. Spurred on by the Cute Industrial Complex, these cuddly animals have taken over blockbuster films, inspirational posters, and computer desktops everywhere, further weakening the innocent civilians who are beguiled by these fuzzy frauds.
But you are stronger than them, aren’t you? Those soft bellies and wet noses are no match for you--and their free ride has just come to an end.
F U, Penguin is the rallying cry for those who choose to fight these power-hungry cute-mongers. Loaded with color photographs and hilarious commentary, this book will have you laughing out loud while it simultaneously saves you from the tragic fate of tossing yarn with big-eyed kittens and bottle-nursing baby pandas forever.
Matthew Gasteier’s latest book is a humorous, if slightly vulgar, exploration of the human tendency to anthropomorphize animals and its effect on both parties. As an animal who is currently being anthropomorphized by Gasteier myself, I thought the message was a bit lost in all of the comedy and full-color photographs. However, the average human will find the book to be very funny.
Based on his hit blog of the same title (though fully spelled out on the anything-goes internet), F U, Penguin includes 100 posts, one-third of which are entirely new. With an introduction for the book, plus forewords for all five sections (which include penguins, pets, and ugly animals), and facts about each animal, the new material adds up to about half the book, making it a worthy purchase even for the long time human reader of the site.
Granted, I only learned how to read last year, but since becoming a book reviewer for Amazon I’ve read quite a few animal-related books, and this was one of the strongest. While many of the facts are shaky at best (e.g. I’ve known quite a few seals, and they are always careful to only go to parties to which they have been invited), they are interesting enough to keep coming back for more. Obviously, as a penguin I have some issues with the “cold hard truths about penguins.” These sidebars take long-disproved stereotypes about penguins and recite them for comedic effect. At one point, Gasteier says penguins purposefully invite you to their wedding just to get a present because they know you can’t afford to attend. Quite frankly, I was rather disappointed he didn’t come, and his handmade pottery was no consolation, believe me. The section does not ruin the experience, but it’s a rare but disappointing misstep in a book that otherwise tries to stay light-hearted and fun.
It might be surprising to some that a penguin would respond well to a book that is ostensibly so derogatory towards penguins. But it’s clear that the character Gasteier has created really loves the penguins deep down, and is struggling to deal with that vulnerability. I remember my first crush on a penguin. Her name was Suzie and she smelled like seaweed. I used to stare at her while we stood on the beach. Once, she came over to talk to me, but instead of telling her how much I liked her feathers, I mumbled something about her preponderance of blubber in front of my friends to show I was tough. It hurt me, perhaps even more than it hurt her, but I didn’t yet know how to love, so I was pushing her away. Gasteier’s humor is that same kind of coping mechanism. I choose not to condemn, but to sympathize--a strong lesson in these rough economic times.
Overall, F U, Penguin is an enjoyable irreverent jaunt through the animal kingdom. While perhaps not quite as funny as John Audubon’s satirical masterwork, The Birds of America, Gasteier’s work will have you begging for more. Highly recommended. --A Penguin