Flaying savagely at ""consensus anthropology"" -- its scientific pretensions, its bent for meddling ""social work"" --...


DOWN AMONG THE WILD MEN: The Narrative Journal of Fifteen Years Pursuing the Old Stone Age Aborigines of Australia's Western Desert

Flaying savagely at ""consensus anthropology"" -- its scientific pretensions, its bent for meddling ""social work"" -- Greenway tells a spellbinding saga of fifteen years in the Australian Outback tracking the last Paleolithic peoples on earth. Writing with the sting of a Jonathan Swift, Greenway characterizes himself a ""misanthrope"" who detests the weak-kneed liberalism of current anthropological research; his heroes are the ""wild men"" -- the Aborigines -- but also those early white explorers who knew their lives would end, as likely as not, impaled on a native spear. Bonkers they were; rogues and madmen all, driven by some ""inborn error of metabolism"" to gather the bones and artifacts now resting in the South Australian Museum. When not fulminating at the humbug of most anthropological wisdom, Greenway recounts what he has gleaned of the secret lore of the bush during his years of scientific trespass on the tribesmen. From his first excavations of the tools of the 40,000 year-old Kartan culture to ""Mike McHale"" his first blackfella in the flesh, he holds your rapt attention whether inquiring into tribal initiation ceremonies (misunderstood by Ashley Montagu) or hunting rites and kangaroo roasts or the songs and mythic cycles of the desert country. Like Marlowe on the trail of Kurtz, the white demigod of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Greenway finds dark and disturbing illuminations of the human condition in the primitive rituals of the Aborigines. Some will see in his relish for the daily cruelties and treacheries of the bush a twisted Social Darwinism. No assimilationist, he would like the baastids to leave the bushmen alone and secure among the totemic heroes of the Australian Dreaming -- as far as possible from the rot of ""this worst of all centuries."" A wayward iconoclast now lodged at the University of Colorado, Greenway writes with an astounding and bitter passion, provoking by turns outrage, pity and terror. A book you'll find bloody hard to forget.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1972


Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown--A.M.P.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1972