Email this review


It is hard to quarrel with Carter's assertion that, given the infinite variety of dolphins' personalities and people's subjective reactions to them, there is no such thing as the ""definitive"" book on the topic. If there were, however, it wouldn't be this one -- partly because this one is so subjective, even when dealing with matters of 'fact': evolutionary hypotheses, locomotion, communication, intelligence. The science qua science is amateur, casual to sloppy, sometimes due to slipshod word usage (Homo aquaticus at home on land and sea would be ""ambivalent""), sometimes to absurd interpolation -- ""There are some, but very few, neurotic dolphins""; lacking the firm frame of reference of the more dependable Helen Kay, Carter's collection of data resembles collage built unsteadily on pure enthusiasm. But his enthusiasm is enormously catching when it comes to Dal and Suwa, pets of a Mrs. Betty Brothers of Florida and the pivot-points of the whole narrative: as profiled and pictured they almost bear out the author's editorializing exhortations -- ""Unless you have had a dolphin for a friend, you have missed one of the rarest of man-animal relationships."" He begins by describing his own experiences with the pair engagingly -- though so stuffily that it's no surprise that he sank ""up to the calves of my Brooks Brothers slacks in mud and marl and quagmire."" The style becomes more comfortable as the story gains momentum, and it's tempting to overlook the repetition and also the minor discrepancies between material in the photo-captions and the text. While often mind-boggling in some unsound ways, this will be eye-opening in some good ways: RSVP is the name of the last chapter; readers conditioned to popular science just might.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1971
Publisher: Putnam