Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alex & Me by Dr. Irene Pepperberg

It's no secret that I loved Alex, the Grey Parrot, and followed his doings with interest. I still follow the Foundation's news, and wish they updated their website more often.

So Alex and Me was welcome; less dense and scientific than The Alex Papers, it is a dual autobiography, telling of both Alex and Dr. Pepperberg, recounting how Irene Pepperberg found her way (and worked extremely hard) to the combination of biology and psychology that the Alex Studies represents, and how Alex came into her life. It is a much more personal story than usually makes it onto the website or the news, which usually feature Alex's achievements, and it makes clear how extraordinary both of its subjects are. It also allows for Pepperberg to talk more openly of her love for Alex, something which, when she started the study, was a forbidden topic (animal subjects were supposed to be treated with the same dispassion as atomic particles).

My only gripe, and it's a contrary unfair sort of gripe to have, is that the focus is so tightly on Alex we learn little of the other birds, and little of what is happening now. Alex is dead (and much mourned). What is Griffin up to? What happened to the hyper Kyaaro, the grey parrot who drank coffee to calm down? Not fair complaints for a book on Alex, perhaps more a request for a sequel?

Edit: Oh, I do see there is now a video of Griffin learning. Hurray!

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