Tarte, Bob 1952–
Tarte, Bob 1952–
Born October 1, 1952; married; wife's name Linda.
Home—Lowell, MI. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and columnist.
Enslaved by Ducks: How One Man Went from Head of the Household to Bottom of the Pecking Order (memoir), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2003.
Fowl Weather (memoir), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.
Author of the ‘Technobeat’ world music column for the Beat magazine. Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Miami New Times Whole Earth Review, Fortean Times, and Monitoring Times.
Enslaved by Ducks has been optioned for film.
Bob Tarte is a writer who has contributed to numerous periodicals and also writes a music review column titled ‘Technobeat’ for the Beat magazine. While music and modern culture may be his writing forte, the author soon began gathering stories for a memoir when he found he and his wife living ‘on the edge of a shoe-sucking swamp,’ as he notes on his home page, and beginning a process of adopting a growing menagerie of animals. Although primarily attracted to birds of an exotic nature, Tarte revealed his love of all animals when he told Denise Lacazette in an interview on Bella Online: ‘A friend of mine brought over a boa constrictor. Vigo is its name. It was so gentle and laid his head in my hand. If I got rid of all the birds I could have one … but I'm not going to do that!"
Enslaved by Ducks: How One Man Went from Head of the Household to Bottom of the Pecking Order was called an ‘hilarious debut’ by Entertainment Weekly contributor Karyn L. Barr. In the book, which Booklist contributor Nancy Bent called ‘heartwarming,’ the author recounts how the adoption of a pet rabbit, Binky, by his wife at an Easter Bunny fair led to a spate of animal adoptions following the couple's move to a Michigan farm house. The author recounts that he was not particularly an animal lover, having ignored his pet beagle when he was a kid. However, his memoir reveals how Tarte grew to love his home zoo despite the fact that many of his animals, as described by Tarte, are dysfunctional. For example, it turns out that Binky likes to chew into live electrical wires. Another animal, Ollie, an orange-chin pocket parrot, has a nasty disposition exhibited by his propensity for biting. Before long, Tarte and his wife acquired ducks, geese, turkeys, a starling, cats, and numerous other animals who took over the couple's lives. ‘A cast of characters listed in the front … helps to keep straight the bewildering number of animals, … each with a personality of its own,’ noted Judy McAloon in the School Library Journal.
Despite the book's humor, the author also delves into the difficulties of falling in love with animals. ‘Since animals inevitably get sick, sometimes mortally, Tarte found that visits to the vet eventually necessitated visits to the psychiatrist; his mood chemistry needed as much help as his menagerie,’ wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Enslaved by Ducks was widely praised by reviewers for both its humor and the author's take on the complexity of animal thought. Noting that the author's ‘ordinary-Joe voice … makes each chapter a true pleasure,’ a Publishers Weekly contributor went on to write that Tarte also provides ‘a sophisticated vision of animals and their relationship to humans.’ Edell Schaefer wrote in the Library Journal: ‘This light and witty diversion is highly recommended for those who appreciate the value of good humor and a positive outlook."
Tarte follows up on his animal adventures with another memoir titled Fowl Weather. By this time, the Tartes have more than thirty animals. However, in this memoir, Tarte focuses not only on the family pets but also a series of family crises that he must deal with, including his father's death and his mother being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Noting that this memoir ‘has a somewhat darker undertone,’ a Publishers Weekly contributor added that the book ‘should still delight readers with its humorous … sensibility.’ Despite Tarte's chronicling of his own emotional difficulties in dealing with his father's death, his mother's illness, and the loss of some beloved pets, the author continues to instill humor in his tale, such as the innovative way his family deals with the fact that his mother keeps hiding her purse and then forgetting where she put it. Among the animals introduced in this follow up are a Pekin duck that was spoiled by its previous owner and a cat who insists that it will only drink out of a bowl while Tarte is holding it up to its mouth. Nancy Bent, writing in Booklist, pointed out that the family's pets make Tarte realize that they provide a ‘center and focus and that for all the headaches they … cause, they also provide a form of sanity."
Once again, Tarte's tales of animals and his family were favorably received, both for its humor and for the lessons that Tarte learns. Edell Schaefer, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the animals ‘serve as role models for taking life as it comes and keeping perspective in a sometimes insane world.’ Entertainment Weekly contributor Mandi Bierly wrote that the author's ‘laughter-through-tears approach is therapeutic and inspirational."
Tarte told CA that he first became interested in writing by reading many books and wondering if he could write one. ‘Reading Bill Bryson's books made me wonder if I couldn't write a humorous pet book.’ Tarte stated that he works very slowly and reluctantly, and the most surprising thing he has learned as a writer is how poorly it pays, but how much he still wants to do it.
"Of the two animal books currently published, Fowl Weather is my favorite, because it describes the chaos of caring for animals and the chaos of life, in general. Mainly, I want my books to make people laugh. But I also want them to see animals in a different way—to realize that every duck, dove, and hen is an individual being that is worthy of respect."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Tarte, Bob, Enslaved by Ducks: How One Man Went from Head of the Household to Bottom of the Pecking Order, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2003.
Tarte, Bob, Fowl Weather, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2007.
Booklist, October 1, 2003, Nancy Bent, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 280; January 1, 2007, Nancy Bent, review of Fowl Weather, p. 35.
Entertainment Weekly, November 14, 2003, Karyn L. Barr, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 130; March 16, 2007, Mandi Bierly, review of Fowl Weather, p. 72.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2003, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 1065; January 15, 2007, review of Fowl Weather, p. 67.
Library Journal, October 15, 2003, Edell Schaefer, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 89; February 15, 2007, Edell Schaefer, review of Fowl Weather, p. 141.
Publishers Weekly, August 11, 2003, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 264; December 4, 2006, review of Fowl Weather, p. 44.
School Library Journal, December, 2003, Judy McAloon, review of Enslaved by Ducks, p. 178.
Bella Online,http://www.bellaonline.com/ (November 9, 2007), Denise Lacazette, ‘Interview with Author Bob Tarte."
Bob Tarte Home Page,http://www.bobtarte.com (November 9, 2007).