The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

By Benjamin Hale (Audiobook, 2011)
Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.
  • Hachette Audio
    • Format: Audiobook

    • Price: $19.98 US/$21.98 CAN

    • ISBN-13: 9781607886891

    • On Sale Date: 02/02/2011

    • Publisher: Hachette Audio

    • Imprint: Twelve

    Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Audiobook, Electronic Book

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Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno's ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys -- and most affecting love stories -- in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human -- to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

Benjamin Hale is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, where he received a Provost's Fellowship to complete his novel, which also went on to win a Michener-Copernicus Award. He has been a night shift baker, a security guard, a trompe l'oeil painter, a pizza deliverer, a cartoonist, an illustrator and a technical writer. He grew up in Colorado and now lives in New York.
  • "The most talented and intriguing young writer I've met in years. A writer with a capital W. . . It's like being a baseball scout in Oklahoma in the late 1940s and seeing this young kid running around centerfield, and you ask the guy next to you, 'Who's that?'  And the guy says, 'I don't know, some kid named Mickey Mantle.'" (--Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!, The Extra Man and the current HBO series Bored to Death).

  • "An enormous, glorious rattlebag of a book.  Benjamin Hale's extremely loud debut has echoes of the acerbic musings of Humbert Humbert and the high-pitched shrieking of Oskar Matzerath.  Hale's narrator, Bruno Littlemore, is a bouncing, pleading, longing, lost, loony, bleeding, pleading, laughing, beseeching wonder." (--Edward Carey, author of Observatory Mansions and Alva & Irva).

  • "Benjamin Hale is a writer of rare and exciting talent.  We'll be reading his books for years.  Dive in." (--Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead).

  • "Spend some time in [Benjamin] Hale's glittering world and you will be quickly rewarded: the book's brilliance is woven throughout its 580-odd pages . . . I don't think I've ever encountered a protagonist like Bruno Littlemore, but he has some obvious antecedents in Saleem Sinai, of Midnight's Children, and The Tin Drum's Oskar Matzerath . . . Like both characters, Bruno narrates his own story from some kind of imprisonment or exile, and he is also a singular, largely self-made being, a genius auto-didact capable of bursts of rage, deep sensitivity and love, and profound philosophical disquisitions. It's the latter that provide some of the most startling sections of the novel . . . Hale's book offers all those things we ask of our novels: rich entertainment and comedy, emotional sincerity that isn't cloying, and the ability to satisfy the immense ambition it sets for itself - to free the reader from the "half-silvered mirror of his mind" and to show him humanity in a new, rarely comforting, light. Hale is preternaturally talented, and though the field has not yet fully assembled, THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE must be considered one of the most anticipated novels of next year." (Publishers Marketplace).

  • In this account by a chimpanzee who ascends the evolutionary ladder, first-novelist Hale explores what it means to be human. Nine years into captivity after committing a murder, Bruno-24 years old, hairless, with his spine straightened by bipedal standing, and his surgically fashioned, humanoid nose-dictates his memoirs, having become proficient at speech, reading, and visual arts. His first name was given to him at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo where he was born, his second is taken by him from researcher Dr. Lydia Littlemore, who tests him and with whom he comes to share a home and a deep, and eventually sexual, love. Motivated by his love for Lydia and language, Bruno soon lives and functions as a human, becoming an assault on those who consider humans unique, and his blissful relationship with Lydia spawns hatred. Like his protagonist, Hale clearly loves language, using words with precision (likely to send readers to a dictionary) and for play, as when Lydia, when happy, "chortled up the engine" to start her car. With its exuberantly detailed sex between species and its concept that human cognizance of death leads to superstition and religion, this novel is likely to offend some readers, while others will find it holds a remarkable, riotous mirror to mankind. (Booklist (Starred Review)).

  • Bruno is in prison. Bruno murdered someone. Bruno had a deep and affecting relationship with his caregiver; well, okay, they had sex. And in his powerful complexity, Bruno has been compared to Augie March, Alexander Portnoy, Humbert Humbert, and Oskar Matzerath of Tin Drum fame. One thing: Bruno is a talking chimp. This novel, won in a fierce auction, with foreign rights sold to a half dozen countries, is reportedly big, loud, brassy, contrary, energetic, and just plain awesome. As for the sex, "It's not bestiality," said Cary Goldstein, the book's editor at Twelve, "It's love." This will get a lot of attention and provoke a lot of conversations come the new year, so be prepared. What a way to make your debut. I can't wait. (Library Journal ).

  • "An enlightened chimp goes on the wildest adventure since Every Which Way but Loose in Hale's mischievous debut. Bruno Littlemore, the narrator chimp, eventually lands in a research lab at the University of Chicago, where he falls in love with Dr. Lydia Littlemore, who, shortly after hearing Bruno speak his name, takes him first to her apartment (sex is had, much later) and later to the quietude of a Colorado ranch owned by a couple of odd animal rights advocates. It is in this environment that Bruno becomes a fully articulate and artistic being, but the idyll does not last: Lydia falls ill, and Bruno is captured, escapes, ends up in New York City, and befriends a dreamer named Leon with whom he mounts a performance of The Tempest before being forced by circumstance to return, tragically, to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Bruno, having mastered speech, is quite happy to play with this new toy, going on philosophical riffs and speaking at length about art, and while his monologues are less tedious than you'd imagine, it's his quest for answers about the agonizing dilemmas of existence that is unexpectedly resonant. (Feb.)" (Publisher's Weekly).

  • "Hale's Bruno is smart and inclined to archness and irony, and it's a pleasure to follow his thoughts, darkling and otherwise . . . a book of considerable merit  . . . and of high entertainment value, too, as much fun as a barrel of monkeys." (Kirkus Reviews).

  • "In his debut novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Benjamin Hale toys with the meaning of humanity. The extra-evolved chimpanzee of the title speaks, reads, and enjoys the visual arts, while also navigating the tricky boundaries of interspecies love and the nuances of self-identity." (Flavorpill's "10 books you must read this year").

  • "In this buzzed-about debut novel from Twelve Books, the eponymous hero is a chimpanzee who has learned to speak, read, and enjoy the visual arts, among other human endeavors. There is apparently interspecies love (and sex!) in the book, and the jacket copy declares that it goes beyond satire ' showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human - to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.' A bookseller at legendary West Hollywood indie bookstore Book Soup has raved to me about the novel's inventiveness and its beautiful, beautiful prose." (Literary blog, 'themillions').

  • "Most lurid sex scene of the year:

    Three pages of Benjamin Hale's The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore describe a woman making out with a chimpanzee." (The Telegraph).

  • "This is a challenging, rewarding, incredibly complex debut. Hale's creation - Bruno Littlemore - is one of fiction's truly original characters, one that will resonate with the reader long after the book is finished." (The Bookstall).

  • "Of course a chimp can learn to speak, can have bad dreams about the 'gnome chompy,' can fall in love, perform Shakespeare, take himself extraordinarily seriously, get a nose job, kill a man, and see the United States. He can because Benjamin Hale has written an entire life here; a life that is not just convincing, but beautifully, painfully, perfectly affecting. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is not for the faint of heart; but then again, neither is living if you're doing it right." (The Book Cellar).

  • "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a smart, expansive novel of the traditional type. Its premise and execution are as jarring as they are beguiling, and provide Hale with the point of departure for asking all the relevant questions: questions about language, animality, memory, love and belonging. For all its apparent unorthodoxy, Bruno Littlemore is above all a fascinating narrative, a work whose aesthetic allegiances place it squarely among the likes of Bellow and Nabokov." (The Booksmith).

  • "Benjamin Hale's narrator, the unforgettable Bruno Littlemore is immediate and fully fleshed out.  Hale's flawless novel is a compulsive read, interesting in so many ways: science, society, politics, and love.  Bruno's original voice will refuse to leave your head until you've digested his story and gone on a journey with him for a rich, 50 well-paced, perfect chapters.  And even when you finish the book, you'll be craving to hear about Bruno's new adventures, thoughts, and defiant existence. Benjamin's Hale's writing is polished and seasoned; his story of the great Bruno Littlemore is a seamless journey narrated by an irresistible and authentic voice.  Get ready to be swallowed up by an accomplished, addictive, first person, American novel; Hale's first." (Barbara's Bookstore ).

  • "This dictated memoir from a chimpanzee who's learned to speak struck me as a more real and profound journey through what it means to be a person and to find love far more than any reality television show ever could. Bruno steals the show as a witty, charming, intelligent, contemplative, and ultimately admirable figure. Hints of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth pepper Hale's writing giving us an amazing odyssey of a chimp that can teach us all to be a little more human." (Unabridged Books).

  • "Egads, I'm falling in love with a chimp who's falling in love with a girl..... More later. #Bruno" (Ron Charles, Washington Post critic, on Twitter).

  • "It may take a million monkeys clacking into infinity on a million Remingtons to re-create the works of Shakespeare, but it takes only one literate, hyperintelligent chimpanzee to narrate The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, a stunning debut novel . . . Making your main character a talking ape - and one who engages in a romantic liaison with a human being, no less - is ambitious, to say the least. But from the first page, it is clear that Bruno is more than mere literary gimmickry; he is fascinating and fully formed. You learn as much by what he withholds as by what he provides, and he withholds a lot. Since he's a defensive and unreliable narrator with an unorthodox sexual predilection, the easy comparison point for Bruno is Lolita's Humbert Humbert, but he calls to mind that book's author just as readily. Like Nabokov, he is a late adopter of English who throws himself wholly into the language, exploring its less-visited gems - from ''ort'' to ''trichotillomania'' - and obsessing over syntax and signifiers . . . Where the novel should be offensive, it is often tender, and where it should be risible, it is genuinely funny. . . Despite his unlikely erudition, Bruno is by turns fragile, mercurial, spiteful, narcissistic, and lost. All of which, even more than his gift of speech, just makes him that much more human." (Entertainment Weekly).

  • "Narrated by a talking chimp, this new novel is a funny, moving examination of the pros and cons of being human." (Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" at #4).

  • "Hale's novel is so stuffed with allusions high and low, so rich with philosophical interest, that a reviewer risks making it sound ponderous or unwelcoming. So let's get this out of the way: THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is an absolute pleasure. Much of the pleasure comes from the book's voice . . . There is a Bellovian exhuberance befitting a Chicago-born autodidact . . . There's also great pleasure in the audacity of the story itself. THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE announces that Benjamin Hale is himself a fully evolved as a writer, taking on big themes, intent on fitting the world into his work. Hale's daring is most obvious in his portrayal of the relationship between Bruno and Lydia, which eventually breaks the one sexual taboo even Nabokov wouldn't touch . . . Ultimately the point of these scenes is not to shock us but to ask what fundamentally makes us human, what differences inhere between a creature like Lydia and a creature like  Bruno that disqualify the latter from the full range of human affection." (New York Times Book Review).

  • "One very evolved human, Benjamin Hale has evoked, in his first novel, the miracle of Bruno Littlemore, the world's first talking chimpanzee . . .This chimp not only speaks English, he's as sensitive and charming, as brilliant and learned, as any human alive . . . One need only read a few pages to be swept up by the grandeur of Hale's ebullient prose . . . It's Bruno's distinct voice, more than debating points, that wins us over . . . With his primary Chicago setting, engrossing storytelling, unabashed braininess, prediliction for eccentric characters, and long, looping, wonderfully evocative sentences, Hale reminds me of no writer so much as Saul Bellow. But he's got a bold, rick-taking, off-center view of the world all his own . . Adventure tale, love story, science fiction, novel of ideas - this one's got it all." (Newsday).

  • "Bruno Littlemore is one of the most outrageous, vivid characters to populate a page in American fiction in a long time. . . . It's not only a roaring good tale, it's a wonderful musing on the nature of humanness and our relationship to the other species with which we share the planet . . . Hale's sense of humor is often ribald, and the human characters Bruno encounters during his adventures are richly drawn and often eccentric. The descriptions are clearly informed by a deep fondness, and that is the overriding tone of Bruno's narrative: love." (The Baton Rouge Advocate).

  • "The premise might seem like the starting point for a far-fetched, cartoonish novel, but this ambitious debut by Benjamin Hale succeeds in its exuberant examination of what it means to be human-and does it by gradually (and enticingly) revealing a scientific explanation for Bruno's "unusual case." . . . Because Bruno's an autodidact, there are large holes in his education, and these shortcomings create some of the most humorous (and unsettling) scenes in the book. He's not sexually attracted to chimps, and some of his interactions with human females are explicit in their descriptions. This will definitely be unnerving to some readers, but a description of the evolution of a creature, chimp or human, without these details would have done a disservice to the story's larger shape. . . . A "novel," by definition, presents something "new." And The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore . . . startles with its audacious ingenuity." (The  Barnes & Noble Review).

  • "Imagine, for a moment, a future in which animals are accorded the same rights as humans, a society in which cattle ranchers, research scientists and pet owners are regarded with an antipathy we now reserve for eugenicists and slave traders. In the graduate literature seminars of this future, Benjamin Hale's debut novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," would be hailed as a brave and visionary work of genius . . . This interspecies coming-of-age story - in which a chimpanzee acquires language and attempts to make his way through human society - would be taught alongside "Animal Farm," the works of Temple Grandin and JM Coetzee's  Elizabeth Costello.  For readers of the present day, THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE offers a touching and quirky story of identity formation, a brash, glittering, engaging yarn that pushes past opposable thumbs, universal grammar and bipedal ambulation to the pulsing heart of our fair species. The novel's narrator and semi-reluctant hero announces himself with a flourish . . . Erudite and affected, bitter, brilliant and lonely, Bruno's narrative voice self-consciously echoes many of the 20th century's most memorable narrators . . . THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE is a major accomplishment. A lively page-turner that asks the big questions head on and doesn't shy away from controversy, Hale's first novel is a noisy, audacious and promising debut." (San Francisco Chronicle).

  • Hale's novel "smarter, more imaginative and impressively laid out . . . Bruno's human struggle is what makes him so provocative. His complaints and problems are irritating but relatable. His narcissism shows how we shouldn't behave but often do . . . He can teach us things. His naïveté and innocence inspire us to admire the beauty of nature and art and great writing. He reminds us of the beauty of loving selflessly and being loved. Yes, we can learn lots from Bruno - but does he have to be so annoyingly like us? (USA Today).

  • "...a stunningly ambitious debut novel  . . . a moving meditation on what it means to be human . . . there is something irresistible about The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore." (Houston Chronicle).

  • "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a serious novel that manages to transform an interspecies love story into a journey into language, humanity, life and death. It cleverly challenges the reader to explore ancient philosophical themes while sharing a love story between a woman and a chimpanzee, which includes some very funny moments. The story leaves you thinking deeply about what it means to be human. Open the book -- and your mind -- and let Benjamin Hale take you away." (Chaucer's Books).

  • "We've finally got a book to screech and howl about. Benjamin Hale's audacious first novel, "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore," is a tragicomedy that makes you want to jump up on the furniture and beat your chest . . . "The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore" is a brilliant, unruly brute of a book - the kind of thing Richard Powers might write while pumped up on laughing gas . . . When the novel's antics aren't making you giggle, its pathos is making you cry, and its existential predicament is always making you think. No trip to the zoo, western Africa or even the mirror will ever be the same . . . funny, sad and shocking  . . . extraordinary intellectual range. . . But just when you want to stuff this chimp back in his cage, he comes up with some unforgettable new adventure, like his off-off-Broadway production of "The Tempest" that's absolutely transporting. So let Bruno run free. He's got a lot to tell us, and we've got a lot to learn." (The Washington Post).

  • "Told in an eloquently deluded voice reminiscent of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert, the book a tinderbox of complications, touches on some big topics: animal rights, linguistics, and philosophy. Bruno's tale, however, is at heart a reflection on every sentient being's desire to connect with an other, whatever the species." (O Magazine).

  • "This gutsy exploration of what it means to be human is narrated by a gifted chimpanzee named Bruno. With a quick wit and a superior attitude, the simian antihero relates his escapades, his existential crisis, and his feelings of love for a primatologist named Lydia. Bridgit compares Hale to Nabokov and says, "The phrasing, the imagery, the word choice-all of it is just so fresh and elegant." (Goodreads, Movers & Shakers).

  • "This is not a book for the squeamish. There is bestiality, and rape, and what one might consider an incestuous relationship. Let's acknowledge that upfront, but then move on. If you let this be an excuse for not reading the book, you're missing out on one of the more effusive and unrestrained works of fiction in years . . . It's Bruno's voice that gives this novel the complexity and life it deserves. His stories, although not always reliable, are always abundantly full of the mysteries of humanity." (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

  • " . . .an eloquent and dramatic writer." (Time Out New York).

  • "Ambitious . . . it throbs with energy and boils with passion as it expresses a dark vision of our essential nature that strikes uncomfortably home." (Los Angeles Times).

  • "Powerful . . . a debut novel short on arrogance or pretention, but full of confidence and life . . . Yet, despite Bruno having the most romantic narrative voice since Humbert Humbert, he lacks that definitive trait that comes with lived-in humanity: humility. By giving us a narrator with so much passion, and so few successes in acting on it, Hale has created one of the most tragic literary heroes in recent memory . . . Their first sexual encounter is one of the most suspenseful and cringe-worthy moments I've read in recent fiction. I prayed for them to stop, and thrilled that they gave in . . . Hale is communicating something very sophisticated in how Bruno comes to learn to express himself, but not the world around him . . . We have to give Bruno-and Hale-credit for delivering a story like this through sheer force of will . . . Good for Bruno, and for Hale for delivering him to us-I'd rather have a monkey with multitudes than a human with platitudes any day." (The Millions).


Product Details

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio
  • Price: $19.98 US/$21.98 CAN
  • Audio Run Time: 1200
  • ISBN-13: 9781607886891
  • On Sale Date: 02/02/2011
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore