The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons From the Wild, By Mark Rowlands

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The Independent Culture

The United States once pursued a policy of eradicating its wolves; shooting, poisoning and trapping them until there were almost no free wild wolves in the country, says Mark Rowlands. However, with the policy now abolished, they are again roaming through parts of Wyoming, Montana and Minnesota. They are also prowling in abundance through the pages of literature, in the strikingly vivid Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow and Joseph Smith's hauntingly beautiful debut, The Wolf.

A wolf named Brenin is captured in these pages, inciting physical destruction and mental pontificating. For more than a decade, Brenin was the author's companion at home and work (he would doze in a corner of lecture theatres where Rowlands worked as professor).

Rowlands refutes the common representation of wolves as the dark side of humanity, pointing out that – etymologically – they have greater connection with light. Rowlands is a passionate chronicler as he casts nets of meaning over the animal. But it is the wolf itself that leaps most vigorously off the page, eluding all fallible cages of human thought, captivating the reader.