About the Book: a Q&A with Rich Shapero
The Magic of Love
Q: Wild Animus tracks the obsessive quest of Ransom Altman, who, on leaving college, rejects a normal life, vowing instead to live—with his girlfriend Lindy—in a world of “inexhaustible desire.” Can you tell us more about your protagonist?
RS: It’s a unique time for most of us. That period between 15 and 21 years of age. We discover what the magic of love is about, and what surrender is about. Ransom is making that discovery, and he arrives at some extreme conclusions.
Q: Would you say, keeping with the imagery of the text, that being in love is sort of like being chased by a pack of wolves?
RS: The notion that in love there is an element of self-destruction—a yielding up of the self in order to realize a participation in something greater—is familiar to many of us. Ransom perceives that if there’s going to be surrender between two individuals, then there will be a hunter and hunted. He develops a mythos around that, and tries to live it out.
A Human-Centric View
Q: Is that why Ransom and Lindy head north to the Alaskan wilderness—to have an encounter with the hidden depths of the human heart?
RS: Wilderness is the place where superficialities are stripped away and what’s fundamental rises to the surface.
In the wilds, you can get a visceral sense of what the world was like before human civilization arose. The big mammals are important. The breadth of scale is important, especially in the mountains. At your feet, you see tundra plants that are miniscule. Then you look up at icefalls that rise a mile into the sky, or ranges that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Everything in our urban world is human-sized. That fools us into a human-centric view of creation. The Alaskan wilds are a great antidote for that.
A Grand, Precarious Existence
Q: Ransom becomes captivated with animals in the wild—specifically Dall sheep and wolves. Do these animals also appeal to you?
RS: Of the mammals on our planet, Dalls live at the elevation limit. To see them—between storms, on these precipices at 5 to 8,000 feet—it’s incredible. Their world, the vistas they see, the life they lead— It’s a grand, precarious existence. Full of danger.
Wolves are part of that world. Coursing through the mountains, looking for prey. If you’re hiking and climbing in a place like Mt. Wrangell, you’ll see Dall sheep regularly. I’ve been fortunate in getting very close to some of them. The experiences were memorable.
As for wolves, I spent a fair amount of time with a couple of packs in northern Minnesota. I was assisting David Mech, the wolf researcher, and had an opportunity to experience them at close quarters.