Where Whales and Humans Meet
Email this review


Broad-minded excursions through the inscrutable land of interspecies communication—in this case, the human-cetacean nexus—and the mind-altering perceptions that potentially ensue, by musician and latitudinarian Nollman (Why We Garden: Cultivating a Sense of Place, 1994; Dolphin Dreamtime, not reviewed). Nollman doesn’t know why his encounters with whales and dolphins move him so, why they are such profound experiences. Yet he senses that therein lurks some elemental nugget that could change our relations not just with animals, but with the earth as well. “Mapping the terrain of the interface is exceeding difficult because of the unfixed manner in which whales and dolphins swim through our collective imaginations.” And one has to be open enough to give the conflicting associations—vital and unformed, behavioral and mythic—access to one’s intuition. What elevates Nollman above the crystal-gazers is that planetary consciousness is only one among a number of avenues he willingly, and critically, explores in the pursuit of grace and wisdom; other paths include the traditionally scientific (there is a seasoned tour of evolutionary advantage here), a range of environmental viewpoints, dolphin healing, telepathy, aboriginal hunters, Japanese whalers—all hold distinct keys to the interface. The heart of the book consists of Nollman musically communing with the creatures, a conceptual art project that “dig[s] deep into the elements of musical grammar . . . to attain a real-time flow”—a flow state that he first experienced, and most convincingly illustrates here, when jamming with a Mexican turkey—a piece of inspired call-and-response tomfoolery. For the most part, Nollman presents his ideas in a bell-clear, jargon-free voice, with the occasional corker: “this species of Leviathan is an alchemist that stokes some significant part of its golden inner flame directly from a brutally leaden atmosphere.” Nollman is a common-sensical freethinker. Not knowing doesn’t scare him, categories haven’t hardened his arteries. He wants his relations with cetaceans to feel right, and these pages recounting his odd experiences are his notes toward that understanding.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5523-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999