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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "Moo" by Jane Smiley
By Milt Gross
Dec 7, 2014 - 5:05:02 AM

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"Not for a minute does MOO lose its perfect satiric pitch or its pacing..." states a praise for what to me was a confusing, funny-in-places story. Milt Gross photo.
Either I'm a really dull unperceptive reader or Jane Smiley, the author of Moo, was an over-educated strange writer.

It may be either one, but it can't be both.

The back of Smiley's 1995 paperback describes as "born in Los Angeles, grew up in St.Louis, and studied at Vassar and the University of Iowa, where she received her Ph. D." And Moo was "selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club," according to the same page.

I had a large number of college professors of which only one tried for a title as strange. I first knew her as my high-school gym teacher and later as that professor. Another student once asked me rhetorically why she treated me so badly, and when I was supposed to seek her to be a reference, I didn't bother. I lost nothing without her being a reference.

Moo is an "Uproariously funny and at the same time hauntingly melancholy portrait of a college community in the Midwest," a national magazine bragged of Moo.

I found one of the few parts I fully understood were of a hog named Earl that was taken care of by an agricultural student until his barn was demolished and he escaped to run wild on the campus until he tripped, hurt his hoof and ankle, and died.

Except for that, the story involved numerous characters -- a bit wacky -- who populated the university staff and student body, who did a number of strange things from trying to save the soil in a South American country from a development that would have ruined the soil to attending drinking parties and finally two of them getting married.

Seem a bit confusing?

It was for me too, a description of a kind of wackiness and confusion that to me described Smiley herself.

Smiley authored 14 novels, two short story collections, five non-fiction books, five young adult novels, and one TV production.

Moo was published in 1996 by The Ballentine Publishing Group. prices a 2009 paperback at $10.49, this 1999 paperback edition at $2.98, and a 1995 hardcover at $12.00.

My wife picked it up at our recycling center. Having read it, I wouldn't pay anything for it.

But if this is your type of writing, go find it at or at a bookstore -- or at your recycling center.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

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