Thursday, October 25, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketLately I've been on a bit of a reading and movie-going kick. The reading started before I stopped drawing, but since then I've been devouring a stack of books, particularly nature related writing.

Sy Montgomery's The Journey of the Pink Dolphins was a revelation - a real-life, ground (and treetop and water) level exploration of the most ecologically rich region in the world. Montgomery travels the regions of the Amazon, from the polluted to the near pristine, encountering amazing wildlife and fascinating people in every region. Her quest focuses on the remarkable boto, the freshwater dolphin of the Amazon, a friendly, beguiling and unusual creature.

As with Brian Payton, Montgomery engages with the local people and recounts their tales - in this case persistent stories of the boto taking human form and abducting people to the Encanta (the City beneath the water). What comes across most strongly is the richness of the wilderness in a place teeming with life of every sort, where the water fairly vibrates with it. This is no dry travelogue, but a traveller's tale rich in incident, observation and daring interaction with nature. Montgomery does ultimately get up close and personal with the botos themselves, but her eye for detail is everywhere.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe very next book I read, which came out last year, was The Dolphin People by Torsten Krol (the pseudonym of a Queensland author or authors). Reading this directly after Journey of the Pink Dolphins did it few favours - this world seemed accountably barren of wildlife by comparison (except where needed for plot purposes). The writing was enjoyable enough - a straight ahead post World War II adventure tale about a blended family (with Nazi connections), stranded in the Amazon rainforest and attempting to survive with a local Indian tribe. These four survivors are seen as transformed "dolphin people" by the locals and they attempt to live the myth, with unanticipated results. Given the somewhat adolescent preoccupations of the narrative (the protagonist is a teenage boy), it's not surprising that the female characters fare worst. Overall, okay, but not recommended - reread The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux instead :).

Journey of the Pink Dolphins is highly recommended though! It's a first-class natural record of a region under threat of destruction, but also a testament to the people who have successfully lived there until now.

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