Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Crow by Boria Sax

I found this book at random looking at the library shelves. It's part of a really cool animal series by British publisher Reaktion Books. A look at this animal (actually corvids in general: crows, ravens, jackdaws, magpies, rooks, etc.) in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Europe, Asia, American, and Native American cultures. It's a bit like Barry Lopez' Of Wolves & Men but not nearly so deep. Jim Crow, scarecrows, and a thousand stories involving crows. A cool book. In his musing on the Hebrew bible: "If we think of the Ark as a grand experiment in the domestication of animals, perhaps the story of Noah and the raven records the inability of certain animals to follow human direction." (34)

I've been watching crows recently. Despite their urban ubiquity, I hadn't really thot of them as more than an annoyance to me when I was in high school and I wanted to sleep in and they wouldn't let me with their incessant cawing from the birch trees 50 feet from my ears. So, the more I watch, and now having read this, I realize the brilliance of this species. When he set out to study ravens, Bernd Heinrich was warned by his advisor "Ravens...are smarter than you are, and it will take you years to outwit them enough so that you can begin to get meaningful data." (Ravens in Winter 59) I think I know what he means.

And, I'm now going to read "Has Success Spoiled the Crow?" by David Quammen.


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