by Jennifer Egan
from the January 11, 2010 issue of The New Yorker
Well, though I enjoyed last week’s offering, I wouldn’t give it much more than a six out of ten if I were rating it. And this week I’m afraid my evaluation remains about the same. “Safari” is readable, and there are points to ponder on, but ultimately it doesn’t add much to the discussion but only seeks to sound like a different perspective on a familiar topic.
A virile father has taken his two young children — a daughter Charlie, 14, and a son Rolph, 11 — and his young girlfriend Mindy out on a safari. Mindy is studying anthropology at Berkely. Basically that clue sets up the whole structure of the story as we watch these beings battle it out in this natural setting. It becomes even more solid when the safari encounters a pride of lions and the lioness attacks in order to protect her two young cubs. That happens early in the story, so the meat of the story (both the raw and the cooked — and, yes, raw and cooked food is sitting there in the details) is taken in watching this group of people interact animalistically.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I found it a bit heavy-handed, and not all that interesting a character study to begin with anyway.