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Books: Milked Maids

2 minute read
Jill Smolowe

It’s a tale as old as the boy-girl game itself. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall giddily, dizzily in love. Boy dumps girl to move on to new pastures. Girl mopes. And mopes. And mopes. This familiar variation on the mating dance proves fresh and hilarious in the hands of first-time novelist Laura Zigman, whose Animal Husbandry, a naughty vivisection of male dating rituals, should do for dumped girlfriends what Olivia Goldsmith’s The First Wives Club and Fay Weldon’s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil did for dumped wives: hearten, console, viciously amuse. It has already been optioned for a movie.

As the story opens, narrator Jane Goodall, 30 (“not the Jane Goodall, but sometimes I think it was my name that led me from men to cows, from cows to monkeys, and then to all my research and theories”), introduces the Old-Cow-New-Cow theory. Bull meets Cow. They mate. Soon, Bull wants New Cow. Jane, a TV talk-show booker, is, in a nutshell, Old Cow. After spending two heady months with the show’s executive producer, Ray, she agrees to move in with him. They find the perfect apartment, she surrenders her precious Manhattan lease–then inexplicably, not to mention inconveniently, Ray dumps her.

In desperation Jane rents a room from her colleague Eddie, a quintessential Bull who, like Jane, is reeling from a broken love affair. While Eddie salves his loneliness by bed hopping with New Cows, Jane wallows in the feelings of unworthiness and unlovability endemic in Old Cows. “When Ray dumped me, all I wanted to know was why,” she explains. “I almost think that’s worse than the act itself–the not knowing.” Only when her best female friend is also dumped does Jane begin to sense that it’s the bulls, not the cows, who have the greater problem, giving rise to her bovine theory of “why men flip-flop from passion to panic until they finally disappear.” Just as the Cow device begins to wear thin and vengeful excess looms, Zigman reigns in her prickly impulses and serves up an ending that feels cathartic and true.

–By Jill Smolowe

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