Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte

Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte
Copyright 2003
Algonquin Paperbacks - Nonfiction/Memoir
308 fun-filled pages

Self-interview time because I'm bored with myself. I just am. This time, I take the lead. Or I takes the lead. Or . . . well, whatever.

I: What possessed you to acquire a book with a duck on the cover?

Myself: A moment of insanity?

I: Bad start. Be serious, now.

Myself: Okay, then. I have no earthly idea how I found this book. I placed it on my wish list due to a recommendation by some stranger or blogger or alien, somewhere, and eventually acquired a copy. It's possible that it was one of those, "If you like this book, you'll love --" suggestions. Those things can get you into terrible trouble, but I've discovered some interesting reads because of chain suggestion ("If you like this then you'll like that; and if you like that then let me show you these . . . ").

I: So, tell us about the book without getting all weird and going off on tangents. And, no quacking.

Myself: (???) Enslaved by Ducks tells about the author's metamorphosis from pet-free life in the city to life in the country with a growing menagerie of tropical birds, water fowl, cats, rabbits, and other beasties (heavy on the avian life). It's a lovely tale of how one man learned about the joy one receives from animals, especially once you become truly devoted to them. Payback, in other words. He seems to have glimpsed intelligence in all of them -- even the turkeys, although turkeys are apparently really stupid.

I: What did you like most about this book?

Myself: It's witty, sweet, touching, sometimes sad . . . a great blend. It's just lovely the way the author not only put up with his wife's yearning to acquire animals, but eventually became an enthusiastic, devoted, hard-working pet owner. The effort they put into caring for their pets is astounding. And, I think I can safely say I'll never look at a duck, goose or starling quite the same way.

I: How did you look at them, before?

Myself: Photo opportunities, from a safe distance. Now, I'll probably be a little more observant of their personalities, as I am with the neighborhood cats. We'll see.

I: There's a personal story tickling your fingers. Go ahead, let it out.

Myself: My brother-in-law's family used to keep geese and ducks when they lived in a rural neighborhood in the Denver area. We went to visit and I was kind of stunned to see that they left their sliding door to the kitchen wide open, so that the animals just trotted inside (and pooped all over the floor, which was fortunately not carpeted). I'd never realized waterfowl can have such distinctive personalities. And, then, of course I promptly forgot about that experience . . . the other bit stuck with me. It's possible Me, Myself and I were responsible for the death of one of those animals to a marauding neighborhood fox, although I was absolutely certain I closed the barn door.

I: Oh, the shame.

Myself: Yeah. How do you atone for a dead goose? I've never figured that out.

I: Was there anything you disliked about the book?

Myself: Incessant wit occasionally annoys me, so there were times I had to put the book aside for a while and read something else. But, let's face it -- I do that all the time. There's really nothing to dislike about the book. Les thought the author should give up and get a dog. I didn't feel that way at all. It's really about how he not only adjusted to pet ownership but came to truly love his pets; and, I think you just have to read the entire book to understand how deeply the animals touched his life and changed him.

I: To whom would you recommend this book?

Myself: Animal lovers, in general. Please bear in mind that he does seem a bit cynical about the whole pet-ownership concept, at first, but it's a very sweet tale about how Bob grew to love his pets. I highly recommend Enslaved by Ducks.

I: Anything else?

Myself: Bob Tarte has recently released a second book, Fowl Weather. I will definitely read it, although it might take me some time to get around to it. If you're looking for a last-minute gift for the animal obsessive in your family, you might as well support the author and buy both. Heck, why not? He's a good guy. You could help save a turkey (or a starling or who knows what) by purchasing his books.

Have a quote or two or three or four:

And over time, I have found myself thinking of them less as "animals" and more as beings, as little packets of alien intelligence. People who hunt for sport probably never consider the deer or turkey they're about to blast to smithereens as a unique individual. But pat the hunter's hound on the head, idly suggest that one of these days you'd like to bag a dog with a .22, and expect a heated discussion. Viewed from an emotional distance, animals do tend to blend together into an undifferentiated mass, like a crowd of spectators at a football game. Yet even a common-as-mud pet like a parakeet will reveal a vivid personality if you pay close attention.

African gray parrots are prone to vitamin deficiencies that can lead to health problems if the bird is restricted to a seed diet, so we were only too happy to provide the pasta, tofu, and Jell-O that a wild bird would have scavenged from the forest.

Linda had always lived out in the country, and that was a big difference between us. Her past included subsistence living with a pig and several chickens in the Michigan north woods, while I had merely lived with Catholics in suburbia.

This one's for Laura, who thinks a book isn't worth its salt unless it contains the word "deft":

Using a long-handled net from a catfish farm, Rupert Murdoch dipped into the Cayuga pen, cornered the female, and with a twist of an arm, scooped her up. "You don't want her flying nowhere," he stated. When we nodded our agreement, he deftly plucked five primary flight feathers from her right wing. The duck never even flinched.

. . . speak with a soft voice, and you might be rewarded with the close approach of a goose. She might even let you touch her. And you had better treasure the gift. Too suddenly and too often, they leave us. It's then that we realize most sharply the subtle comfort of our animals' companionship. It's then that we know that we can't live without them, even though we sometimes must.

Me, Myself, and I: To end our review, we would like to share a fuzzy gosling moment:
All together, now. Awwwwww.


  1. Anonymous2:31 PM

    I read about this one on LT I think. It looks good to me. Thanks for interviewing yourself.

  2. Hmm. This actually sounds interesting. I think I'll add it to my List of Books to Get After I Get My Kindle for Christmas.

  3. Kathy,

    I haven't got the foggiest idea where I heard about this one, but I'm glad I put it on my list. It was a great read. It does nothing toward helping me hack down the ARC stacks, but that's okay. :)

  4. Edgy,

    Go for it. Hope you get your Kindle!

  5. I read this several years ago. Like you, I have no idea how I found it. Chance? But I did enjoy it, although I don't remember a lot now. Nice review!

  6. Jeane,

    This does seem like your kind of book. I'm looking forward to reading his next.

  7. This book sounds really good! I definitely would love to read it. :)

  8. It's a really fun book, Krista. I'm sure you'd whip through it in an hour.

  9. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Hi - Stumbled on your blog and have enjoyed it very much - after reading your review on the Ducks book, I may just have to add to my nightstand stack. Cheers! Linda

  10. Linda,

    Thanks for visiting me! I just peeked at your blog and I'm in love with your dog. She looks like such a comfy pet -- you know, apart from being sneaky. I think you'd love Enslaved by Ducks. :)

  11. Anonymous6:05 PM

    "....I had merely lived with Catholics in suburbia." ROTFL!

    Turkeys are actually reasonably wily. Chickens, OTOH, are blithering idiots although cute as babies.

  12. Carrie,

    That's a great line, isn't it?

    Wait! Don't tell me you've raised turkeys and chickens. You know, I think we're just going to have to collaborate on your memoirs. We'll put in loads of photos of Hez.

  13. You know, we had ducks and geese when I was a little kid, but I always forget that. I really hardly remember them. My parents got rid of them when I got a bit more mobile because they were worried I would investigate too closely... And then there was the pond to worry about! Maybe I should read a book about them, it might bring back memories that I have forgotten.

  14. Perfect last minute gift I was searching for!

  15. Kailana,

    That's a terrific idea. Hopefully, the memories you've socked away are good ones. From a parental viewpoint, I can certainly understand why your parents did away with them. We passed up a house with a pool (it was selling at a dramatically low price -- not sure exactly why, but it was a nice house) because I was afraid my youngest would end up an escape artist and drown. As it turned out, I was right. He was mucho clever with the locks; he had us whipped.


    Wahoo! I hope the recipient loves it! :)

  16. Anonymous12:04 AM

    I would have picked this book based on the cover alone. I think it's pretty interesting.

  17. I wish the bookstore was still open because I would be running out right now to get a copy of this! This sounds like a book that I would absolutely love...and I would've never heard about it had it not been for you! This one's going to be bought right after Christmas when I allow myself to buy books again. Really though, I should never allow myself to buy books again...I have enough to last a lifetime :/ Great review Nancy!!

  18. My mom's African Grey used to eat supper with us every night on his own little plate. I miss having all those animals around me (mom had four birds, I had a hamster, and there were also two dogs) but I enjoy my cat now. Besides, she's not that hard to clean up after!

  19. Wahoo! quack, quack.

  20. I bought this book for Rich a few years back, but he's never read it. I think that "suitable waiting period" ought to be up by now, and that I can just go ahead and read it, don't you? You sure have made me want to!

  21. Violetcrush,

    I didn't even write my cover thoughts -- oops. Yeah, I think it's a grabber. I don't think the cover really influenced me, though. In this particular case, I think it was recommended and I read some reviews that threw me over the edge.


    I know what you mean. I'm working on purging some of our books because I know there's no way I can possibly live long enough to read everything I've got right now -- and they're still arriving. It's a fun book. I've already promised mine to a friend or I'd send you my copy, but when you're able to buy, again . . . well. Just got you in trouble. :)


    That's one thing I love about cats; they're low-maintenance. But, I'll bet it was fun having so many animals. Just judging from what Mr. Tarte said, I can imagine the African Grey made quite a mess but was very entertaining.


    Honk, honk.


    I think it's probably rested long enough, since the book was published in 2003. You could try what I do -- just set the book on the bedside table and point at it. My husband never picks up a book the moment I bring it to him, but if I put it in his zone, he'll eventually get to it.

  22. Oh, I'm so glad you enjoyed this more than I did! It's bothered me that I wound up giving the book such a low rating, especially when my husband raved on and on about it.

    I agree with Carrie. Great line!

    Can't wait to hear what you think about Fowl Weather. I should get that for hubby for Xmas.... shhhhhhh. ;)

  23. Les,

    I didn't realize Rod had raved about it that much. Coolness. I won't tell. That's a great gift idea. :)

    Yep, terrific line. I marked quite a few. Even though I get a little tired of humor, I thought he was pretty funny.

  24. Anonymous9:16 PM

    WOW! Lovely header :) How do u get that effect :) Lovely :)
    I am an animal lover.. I can't stand cruelty to them.. and I have avery much spoilt girl doggie here in my place :)
    I am sure I will love this book :)

    But the duck has a nose-ring :D :D

  25. Thanks for reviewing this book! I have 3 more books to read for the What an Animal Challenge and this would fit the bill (pardon the pun). LOL!

  26. Anonymous11:44 AM

    I love your occasional schizophrenic entries! These books have been on my TBR list for awhile. The way things are going, though, I may never get around to reading them.

  27. Chartroose,

    Is that an official diagnosis?

    Thank you. :) Enslaved is a pretty quick read, but I seriously know what you mean. The TBRs are scary.

  28. Oh, my gosh. You are so funny!

  29. Why, thank you, Mimi. All three of us are speechless. :)

  30. The title of this made me laugh--change "ducks" to "dogs" and it could be the story of my life!

  31. Meryl,

    And, you've got the photo to prove it! :)

  32. Anonymous3:03 PM

    Hey, Bookfool,

    I can't thank you enough for your wonderful self-interview about "Enslaved by Ducks." I don't think you'll find yourself so overwhelmed by attempts at wit in "Fowl Weather." It's a bit more serious, since it is partly about my mom's battle with Alzheimer's disease.

    Thanks again.

  33. Hi Bob,

    I'm glad you liked that. I love humor, but I just have to take breaks from it, now and then. Even my own sense of humor overwhelms me when I write. Weird, or what? I haven't got a copy of Fowl Weather, yet, so don't hold your breath. I just lost my mother, this year, and have friends who are dealing with parents with Alzheimer's. I'm sure it won't be very light, then. It's a long, hard road losing a parent -- watching them go downhill is horrible.

  34. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mom. There's nothing quite as tough as losing a parent. And please give my best to your friends who have parents with Alzheimer's. Fortunately, my mom has no idea that anything is wrong with her, and she is usually in a very good mood. That's a huge comfort to her three kids!

    Take care.

  35. Bob,

    Thanks. It was a long time coming. My mother fought cancer for a little over 17 years. I think the fact that she knew she was dying was one of the hardest parts, so perhaps you're fortunate in that way. My mom's last weeks were hard because she was sad and angry; she most definitely did not feel like it was her time to go.

    I wish you well. :)


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