SO REMORSELESS A HAVOC: Of Dolphins, Whales and Men by Robert McNally

SO REMORSELESS A HAVOC: Of Dolphins, Whales and Men

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A strong proponent of whale preservation, McNally rejects with equal fervor the greed of the 19th-century Yankee whalers--who, unlike earlier Northwest Coast natives, endangered whales' survival by treating them as a natural resource for marketing beyond home grounds--and the New-Age romanticism of today's trendy ""Jonahs"" who see the animals as liberated, anti-bourgeois utopians. (""I'm really into whales,"" they tell him.) Both types, says McNally, are guilty of anthropocentric narcissism. Dolphin enthusiast John Lilly comes off no better: Lilly, says McNally, sees dolphins as graduates of Esalen and sperm whales as superior Transcendental Meditators. His second-hand amazing tales are simply not true, and what's more, ""Lilly, a frightful writer, appears wholly innocent of literature."" (McNally's own acquaintance with literature is manifested in retellings of old myths and a 20-page report on Melville's life and the plot, symbols, and reception of Moby Dick.) But if Lilly's claims for dolphins' intelligence were simplistic, McNally's more sophisticated considerations also point to brains ""in the major league with chimps, gorillas, and humans."" Whales can be our equals, says McNally, without being like us, and should be preserved for their own sake and not for their usefulness to our economy or fantasy life. Yet McNally doesn't deny a surge of awe and mysticism when a pod comes his way--and that's as much a part of the book as his hard analysis of the politics and hypocrisy of International Whaling Commission regulation. Written with more thought and style than Hoyt's The Whale Called Killer (above), a wide-ranging introduction with a vitalizing viewpoint.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1981
Publisher: Little, Brown