Penguins and therolinguistics
This summer I was reading a collection of short stories of Ursula K. LeGuin's that I'd been meaning to enjoy for some time, The Compass Rose, and my mind was doubly blown by the first story, first because it was fantasy about linguistics (interspecies literary studies, really), and second because it talked about the poetry of emperor penguins, and I'd just seen the March of the Penguins. The story's titled " 'The author of the acacia seeds', and other extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics." I like the whole story, but here's the bit that I really felt showed LeGuin's amazing perceptiveness (and of course prose skills), decades before the IMAX Experience:
To those of my colleagues in whom the spirit of scientific curiosity and aesthetic risk is strong, I say, Imagine it: the ice, the scouring snow, the darkness, the ceaseless whine and scream of wind. In that black desolation a little band of poets crouches. They are starving; they will not eat for weeks. On the feet of each one, under the warm belly feathers, rests one large egg, thus preserved from the mortal touch of the ice. The poets cannot hear each other; they cannot see each other. They can only feel each other's warmth. That is their poetry, that is their art. Like all kinetic literatures, it is silent; unlike other kinetic literatures, it is all but immobile, ineffably subtle. The ruffling of a feather; the shifting of a wing; the touch, the slight, faint, warm touch of the one beside you. In unutterable, miserable, black solitude, the affirmation. In absence, presence. In death, life.
I read this right after seeing the MotP, and it really hit me like a ton of bricks. LeGuin, I think, expresses the stirring aspect of the penguins' story more elequently than the narration in the movie, which was full of (what felt to me like) Disneyfying talk of the power of love. Luckily they had all that amazing footage to offset it.
[You try spelling "Disneyfying"!]