The Study of Animal Languages

Lindsay Stern. Viking, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-55743-2
Stern’s latest (after Luz and Town of Shadows) is a taut, brainy tale that tracks the breakdown of an academic couple’s marriage while dissecting differences between language and communication, knowledge and truth, madness and inspiration. Forty-six-year-old philosophy professor Ivan Link drives his wife Prue’s father, Frank, from Vermont to the Rhode Island college where Ivan and Prue teach to attend Prue’s public lecture on birdsong. Bi-polar Frank is not taking his medication, but it is Prue who unsettles her audience by accusing animal language researchers of anthropocentrism, going so far as to call herself prison warden for the birds in her experiments. At the after-lecture party, Frank tries to force guests to admit animals have feelings by threatening to stab Ivan’s cockatiel with a fountain pen. The next day, at the aquarium, believing he understands what sharks are communicating, Frank destroys the shark tank. Frank is hospitalized; Ivan and Prue quarrel. Epistemologist Ivan mistakenly assumes Prue is having an affair with a visiting novelist; biolinguist Prue, meanwhile, cannot articulate the depth of her discontent. Stern’s intellectually teeming prose makes for a thought-provoking novel, though it’s more successful asking questions such as, “Can voles experience heartbreak?” than depicting people breaking each other’s hearts. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2018
Release date: 02/19/2019
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-0-525-55744-9
Show other formats
FORMATS
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X