"It's like The Omnivore's Dilemma
, basically, but with more sucking," is how Nicholas Day describes his new book, Baby Meets World: Suck, Smile, Touch, Toddle
. But I'd liken it to How Monkeys See the World: Inside the Mind of Another Species
, a reader-friendly work in cognitive ethnology
. Because in some ways babies do seem like another species, a sometimes inscrutable one. Burping we get, but why is that creature pointing
? Turns out that the latter may be, in Day's words, "the most interesting mundane gesture ever," an action that serves not just as a way of indicating or declaring something ("that") but as a prelinguistic leg up on understanding what's in the mind of others and communicating what's in one's own ("funny, that"). And pointing is just one example.
A past contributor to the Reader, Day has been blogging on How Babies Work at Slate for some time now—time enough, in fact, for him and his partner to have had a second child/lab rat. His book, however, isn't just for
breeders the targeted audience of WBEZ's latest fund-raising campaign. Instead it's, as he puts it, "an anti-baby book: funnier, with perspective instead of pressure, and with zero advice." Though speaking of pressure, it might make me a bit uncomfortable to learn that my baby was laughing at me rather than with me.
Day discusses Baby Meets World tonight at 6 PM at 57th Street Books.