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Publishers Weekly, 2006-05-15 The title of this masterful and beguiling book is misleading. In Belozersakya's adept hands, exotic animals are mere jumping off points for marvelous adventures through worlds ranging from bustling, heroic Alexandria, Egypt, circa 300 B.C., to the creepy confines of William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon in the mid-20th century. While each of the seven sections revolves around exotic animalsa giraffe in Medici Florence, menageries in 16th-century Prague and Napoleonic Franceit's the story that Belozersakya weaves around these beasts that draws the reader on. A common thread is the obsession caused by these fanciful beasts. Rudolf II, spent so much of his kingdom's fortune on collecting animals that there wasn't always enough money to feed his voracious lions. . "This might explain why on several occasions the Emperor had to recompense servants and subjects mauled by his felines." A meticulous researcher, the Russian-born Belozersakya, an art historian who has taught at Harvard and Tufts, uses these tales to consider how exotic animals have served as diplomatic gifts, as "symbols of power and learning," as mirrors of the cultures that prized them. This is a sumptuous readsmart, funny and utterly compelling. 8 illus. not seen by PW. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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