Love and Ruin: Stories of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak from The Atavist Magazine

Norton. Jul. 2016. 352p. ed. by . ISBN 9780393352719. pap. $16.95. LIT
OrangeReviewStarThe essays featured in this anthology are collected from the five-year-old online magazine and digital publishing platform Atavist (, devoted to long-form nonfiction. A consistent element here is the generous space provided to the writers that allows them to expand their prose, to open their arms and stretch. This elbow room—at a premium in a print-first world—highlights the opportunities that innovative publishers can offer in the brave new digital world. However, there is some irony in returning to old-fashioned print. With this volume, the accounts lose their rich photos, interactive graphics, sound, and video, which are typical features of the site. Among the standouts selected by Atavist editor Ratliff are Leslie Jamison's "52 Blue," about the wanderings of a blue whale who calls with a song of unusually high frequency and becomes a proxy for the loneliness of its fans and followers; Jon Mooallem's "American Hippopotamus," which tells of the intertwined desire of two adventurous men to import hippos to America for meat; and David Dobbs's "My Mother's Lover," in which a search for a man adrift during World War II reveals the details of lost love.
VERDICT Fans of well-researched true stories will enjoy these idiosyncratic and sometimes weird pieces and will likely be drawn to the website looking for more.

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