My Review:This astonishing first novel tells the story of a married couple - both experts in language and communication - who nevertheless cannot seem to communicate with each other.
Ivan is a tightly wound philosophy professor whose reverence for logic and order governs not only his academic interests, but also his closest relationships. His wife, Prue, is quite the opposite: a pioneer in the emerging field of biolinguistics, she is young and beautiful, full of life and feeling. Thus far, they have managed to weather their differences. But lately, an odd distance has settled in between them. Might it have something to do with the arrival of the college's dashing but insufferable new writer-in-residence, whose novel Prue always seems to be reading?
Into this delicate moment barrels Ivan's unstable father-in-law, Frank, in town to hear Prue deliver a lecture on birdsong that is set to cement her tenure application. But the talk doesn't go as planned, unleashing a series of crises that force Ivan to finally confront the problems in his marriage, and to begin to fight - at last - for what he holds dear.
A dazzlingly insightful and entertaining novel about the limitations of language, the fragility of love, and the ways we misunderstand each other and ourselves, The Study of Animal Languages marks the debut of a brilliant new voice in fiction.
This was incredibly cerebral and left me feeling a bit down with the ending but it was very well written. It's also a surprisingly fast read. The characters are well written and it's an intense story taking place over the course of a weekend. It presents a bigger picture but at times all the steps don't necessarily feel like they are falling into something bigger. But I appreciated this overarching experiment, it was very well done.
With the exception of bee dances, which articulate the location of distant food, no other animal communication system has been shown to exhibit syntax, or to refer to objects outside the being's immediate environment. Most linguists therefore consider their sounds--hissing, lowing, barking, and so forth--to be spontaneous responses to stimuli, no more significant than human laughter. This deficit helps explain why animals cannot think. It helps explain why they have not ascended, as we have, into the light of reason, but remain shackled, so to peak, to the walls of Plato's cave.