COMING OF AGE WITH ELEPHANTS: A Memoir by Joyce Poole

COMING OF AGE WITH ELEPHANTS: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Poole has bitten off more than she can chew in this disappointing memoir cum ethological study of her clays amid Kenya's elephant population. 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, … 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 quickie--whoa, 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.

Pub Date: March 28th, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion