Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grey's mentality

An extremely popular book last year was Alex & Me, the story of a Grey parrot -- think Polynesia in Doctor Doolittle -- and his scientist. Like Polynesia, Alex was wise beyond a parrot's common lot, and talked a great deal; like Dr. Doolittle, Irene Pepperberg had a great many adventures, but the love of her work kept her afloat during all of them. I'm not sure, frankly, if the book reads more as an entertaining and incredibly intriguing look at animal intelligence and language use, or a cautionary tale about academia and women in science. Either way, it is excellent, if a little prosy at the end, and I highly recommend it to everyone as a great short read. It is alternately painful and hilarious, and if you don't tear up at Alex's last words to Irene, "Be good. I love you," you are dead inside.

Coincidentally enough, the same day that I finished this, I took a fantasy novel to the gym for reading, the new Valdemar book by Mercedes Lackey. I almost never look at her Valdemar stuff, and wouldn't you know, I noticed that this one is dedicated to Alex and Irene. Lackey is a big bird lover herself, and works with wild birds.

You can find out more about Pepperberg's work via the Alex Foundation.

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