Humane Society

Stories about tragedy and golf
by Jonathan Shute

One of my favorite authors just wrote a book that almost pulses with energy.  Jonathan Shute's characters are vividly drawn and his perceptions resonate in your mind.  His stories are koans, snapshots of a life unfolding over many years.  And considered as a whole, they illuminate the larger story of a young boy, maturing into a man.  

In some senses the coming of age story is the only story.  The essential tale of our very existence.  Every writer grapples with this theme sooner or later.  The quality and talent an author displays in telling it, is often a watershed event in their artistic life.  Mr. Shute has gotten this book out the door, a major accomplishment in and of itself, and in the process, he's presented us with a world view that is finely honed, and somehow, ironic without being cynical.

The world often seems inexplicable, just doesn't make sense.  This struggle to make sense of a chaotic world is a constant theme in Humane Society.  The inadequacies that we all feel when we are confronted with life's twists and turns, bumps and knocks, is brought into sharp relief as we experience the world through Jon's eyes.  Each of Shutes' 61 koans encapsulate an event that was formative or iconic to him.  Some of them feel  so familiar, as if you were remembering them yourself.  Other stories are just so damned weird and cool, that you'll find yourself laughing out loud and squirming in your seat.

I'm not going to provide any spoilers here, because I'd rather that you go buy a copy of the book2, but here are some teasers for your consideration:

  • Billy, is a nth degree black belt who, inexplicably, lets some moron beat the living shit out of him in a bloody Fandango.  
  • The Bunny Man gets burned, badly.
  • The Lord's Barn is violated by hoodlums.
  • There's Casual Cruelty, Dangerous Ideas, a Melancholy monkey and a demonic poodle who has a bad Christmas.
  • And, last but not least, The Willow does actually weep. This tale is iconic in its intensity, and perhaps, represents the culmination of Jonathan's journey as a writer thus far.  It seems wonderful to see these words in hardcopy on the printed page of a nice thick book.

Humane Society is a beautifully made book with excellent bindery and large readable print.  As a physical object, Humane Society has heft and substance. The cover is navy blue with gold letters, and there's no silly dust jacket to get ratty and tattered.  My copy smells a little like stale smoke,  adrenaline and crumpled bar napkins. There's a proper table of contents, a foreword by Dr. Ben L. Collins, and an Introduction by Ryan Postma. Humane Society is dedicated to Mary, the author's wife, who we hereby nominate for sainthood & den mother for presiding over much of the mayhem described therein. 

In the final analysis, Humane Society represents a very talented and promising writer getting the first one off his chest.  This is Shute's first book, but he's promised that it won't be his last.  He's got lots of interesting stories left to tell us, and I for one am looking forward to reading them.

To quote Ryan Postma1, who provides the insightful Introduction to the book, "What you've got here is a book."  Nuff said.



Humane Society

Stories about tragedy and golf

Enhanced non-fiction by

Jonathan Shute

Copyright 2002 by Jonathan Shute. 
Published by Magnas Press2
ISBN 0-9726345-0-9


1 Postma and Shute go way back.  Rumor has it that Jonathan and halspal are also very close. Coincidence?  You decide.
2  I ordered my copy online via for $25.00 U.S.  The website was easy to use and secure. The book arrived quickly and in good shape.