REFLECTIONS OF A WHALE-WATCHER by Michelle A. Gilders

REFLECTIONS OF A WHALE-WATCHER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Whale-watching episodes from Gilders (an employee of British Petroleum), embellished with forays onto terra firma but dampened by misguided wading into the treacherous waters of poetry. Whales do figure in this book, though less than the title might suggest. Three whale-watching voyages frame the narrative, but Gilders is happy when she has any creature in her sight--be it blue whale or kelp fly--and whale-watching can be awfully slow business. She's a namer--look!, an orange-crowned warbler, or a blue-tailed skink. She just plain likes to experience one slice of nature or another, commune with it for a while, and take off for the next encounter. You can't exactly say that Gilders is lost in the details, for the details are what her book is all about. It's at its best as a diary of a naturalist's days afield: errant, lambent, near certifiable in its obsession. Her moments with the leviathans are unremarkable. They cavort, they sound, they come for a good scratch behind the ear. Yes, but check out that sally light- tailed crab and there--sweet Matilda!--a blue-footed booby. This is all charming enough until Gilders gets stiff and marmish while discussing evolution, and her attempts at lyricism also fall short: On a lazy day ``we drifted along the beach, our minds and thoughts blown in different directions'' (that must have been painful); Baja California is ``a beautiful jewel set between two azure seas''; and giant cardon cacti are rumored to ``stand like sentinels.'' Gilders's biggest mistake is to quote extensively from John Steinbeck. There's a strong temptation to go pull one of his titles from the bookshelf and abandon the book in hand altogether. (8 pages b&w photos, 4 pages color photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-253-32572-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994