Can you imagine Stephen Jay Gould recast as a tall and lanky Jesuit priest who has an interest in evolution? Can you imagine someone actually attempting the famous experiment of getting a large number of chimpanzees at keyboards to see if you can get any Shakespeare? Eventually? (The experiment is enhanced with the use of carefully dispensed M&M’s.) Did you ever wonder, if a chimpanzee did make the switch to human levels of intelligence (by training, drugs, surgery, whatever) what kind of scotch if would prefer?

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Normand de Ratour is the main character of three novels written by my former colleague Alfie Alcorn. I worked with Alfie when I guided tours in Africa for the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. When his first novel came out, it caused quite a stir among the Harvard Intelliganci. What Alphie did, roughly, and in my opinion, was this: He took several Harvard Museums’ (MZC, Peabody, etc) people, such as Stephen Jay Gould, David Pilbeam (then director of the Peabody), Wally the security guard, and so on. Then, he made a three column list: Profession/job, Physical appearance, and Personality. Then he hit “random” and ended up with things like a Lanky Stephen Jay Gould-like person who studies evolution.

I loved the book.

And, the reason I mention it today is this: Alphie’s third volume has recently come out. And now, it is time for you to dissect, excavate, and devour in a cannibalistic manner all three:

Alphie and his books have been written up here.

Enjoy!

Comments

  1. #1 KBHC
    July 27, 2010

    That’s funny, I read Murder in the Museum of Man several years back, having no idea any of it was “based” on Harvard MCZ/Anthro folks. I adored the book, but that only makes it more fun! Now I need to pick up the other two volumes.

    I appreciated the setting of the book, since the author seemed to have some understanding of academia even as he was caricaturing it. And I loved the voice of Normand. I enjoy voices that are unique and not completely lovable — not in that modern fiction, my-protagonists-always-have-something-hateful-about-them way, but because it was so uncomfortable to read him. He reminded me of a few people I went to college with.

    Thanks for mentioning these books!