Coming of Age with Elephants: A Memoirby Joyce Poole
The subject of numerous television features (including a popular National Geographic special), Coming of Age with Elephants passionately documents renowned animal behaviorist Joyce Poole's groundbreaking work with 800 elephants at Kenya's Amboseli National Park, discovering the intricacies of elephant social structure, sex cycles, and communication, and their intelligence and remarakble empathy.
As an ethological study, this runs out of gas about a third of the way through. Poole's particular research niche is musth (a period of heightened sexual and aggressive behavior in male elephants), with its dribbling green penises and suppurating temporal glands. Outside a technical paper, such an arcane topic can only have appeal if situated within a broader look at elephant behavior, à la Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall and their primates. But the big picture never forms, nor do Poole's elephants emerge as fellow creatures to whom readers might relate on some level; these elephants are raw data, forever gray (rendering suspect Poole's claim to be able to "describe the meaning of each interaction, posture and vocalization"). Nor does Poole's tedious writing style help: "In other words in order to be self-aware or have a sense of self, a being must possess conscious thinking"; bad enough, but then the next sentence further clarifies "self-awareness" as "being aware of one's own thoughts and feelings." As a memoirist, Poole is exasperatingly coy. Lover Paul appears (we learn he's a Harvard man), then disappears; lover Melomyiet appears (he who "had what so many of us have lost"), then disappears with her Land Rover; she gets raped in the Ngong Hills but treats the abomination as a biteless atmospheric; she has a child, though whether via artificial insemination, a friend, or a quickiewhoa, she ain't tellin'. Poole isn't poet enough to make the obliqueness evocative; it's just confusing.
Poole's African experiences would make an adventurous book. What she needs is a biographer.
- Hachette Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.75(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)
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