Dear Brad Kessler,

This is a love letter, both to you and your goats. Your book was enlightening, and made me fall ever more in love with these herbivores.

I didn’t know that the etymology of tragedy was Greek, although I feel I should have, nor did I know that it meant goat song. I knew something of the complex process of making a tomme (not to advertise for Fifth Town with this link, but they make stunning cheeses. Yes, I’m not ignoring the fact that there was a listeria scare somewhat recently), but you brought poetry and even more meditation to it for me. You reminded me that we are part of the food web, something we mammals, some of us facultative omnivores, are struggling to understand in this awkward stage of our development.

Goats feature in many legends and tales. Tanngrisnir (ety.: Old Norse, “teeth-barer, snarler”) and Tanngnjóstr (ety.: Old Norse, “teeth grinder”), the goats that pulled Thor’s chariot, were eaten by the god himself and then resurrected from their bones the following day. You told of the Yiddish tale that teaches children to follow a goat home if they get lost, and the song גדי אחד : Chad Gadya. One little goat. So precious. You endeared yourself to me with your brief moments of pastoralism (I plan to do the same now), your sensitivity to the interrelationships of the goats that reside with you, and your poetry – your light on language.

Goats are not deserving of all the misplaced stereotypes and expressions that we’ve affixed to them. Scapegoat, to get one’s goat, horny old goat, separate the sheep from the goats (the good from the bad)…we don’t take to caprines too kindly.

But we should, and you have written a beautiful reminder. You’ve painted a masterpiece of wisdom in a tongue so true as to be timeless. I’ve added Birds in Fall and your other novels to my ever-growing reading list.




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