I picked up The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery because it looked so odd. Well, it looked beautiful, the cover is very appealing but nonetheless, sort of odd. Now I find myself wanting to spend time communing with an octopus.
Montgomery is a biologist who became interested in octopuses (the plural form that she uses, as wikipedia says: “There are three plural forms of octopus: octopuses [ˈɒktəpəsɪz], octopi [ˈɒktəpaɪ], and octopodes [ˌɒkˈtəʊpədiːz]. Currently, octopuses is the most common form in the UK as well as the US; octopodes is rare, and octopi is often objectionable” which seems a little strong, it is wrong because Octopus is Greek and the -i ending is Latin) and then fell sort of in love with them.
They are most mysterious creatures and very clever. They escape from captivity as much as they can, taste with their suckers and their skin, recognise individual humans, seem to enjoy quiet hand/sucker holding/caressing with their favourites and trumpet water at those not in favour. Their mouth is in their armpit and their 8 legs/arms act independently of each other. They can change colour and texture at will in less than a second.
China Miéville, one of the best wierd/fantastic fiction writers, wrote a fantastic – in all senses – novel called Kraken about the liberation of a giant squid specimen from London’s Museum of Natural History by worshippers wanting to restore an ancient cephalopod religion. I am going to have to re-read it… Montgomery sort of channels the awe and fascination, and slight fear, that such unusual, very non-mammalian creatures inspire, she grieves when they die and, she says, they are not slimy, but soft, like silky custard, with questing, curious suckers.
Makes you curious too, doesn’t it?