Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where Wolf?

Well, originally I was going to write about how effective a nonfiction writer can be. Then I looked around the web for impressions other readers gave of Never Cry Wolf.

It seems it is not totally nonfiction. But Farley Mowat's book did spur readers to rally around the cause of conservation. Wolves were being exterminated rapidly until he showed how much of "common knowledge" about them was just wrong.

Mowat told his story with a bit of "poetic license," you might say. He writes about being posted in the Canadian wilderness alone to study the wolf. Actually, he was part of an expedition of three biologists and was never alone, according to his supervisor, Frank Banfield (of the Canadian Wildlife Federation).

In Mowat's latest book, Otherwise, he backs off. He doesn't claim that he saw wolves surviving primarily on rodents, or that he tried such a diet to determine if they supplied him enough protein to survive the winter.

But I still recommend the book. Readers learn about wolves (Understanding wild dogs helps us understand our pets, for one thing.), and Mr. Mowat is a good writer. He will make you laugh. His descriptions of interactions with the government bureaucracy are hilarious. A little exaggerating for comic effect? We can only hope.

I laughed enough that I know I will read more of his books. Otherwise sounds like one I might want to review. Stay tuned.


Lindsey Carmichael said...

Mowat has admitted to taking liberties, not only in this book, but his others as well. He claims his fictions stick to the spirit of the truth, but as Indiana Jones points out, there's a big difference between "truth" and fact.

If I sound a little bitter, I am. I have a PhD in wolf biology, and there's a lot of generalized Mowat-resentment among wolf researchers. His "truth" makes it harder for us to convince the general public of the facts. In the long run, that's detrimental to wolf management and conservation.

As far as the mouse thing goes? Unless it ran right past his nose, the wolf would burn more calories trying to catch one than he'd get from eating one.

gonovice said...

I admit I was disappointed when I read of his fictionalizing. But I do think that wolves were being exterminated before the book was published. Some people seem to credit Mowat with helping to stop that.

Species diversity is a good thing. Besides that, he does make me laugh.

jibran said...
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jibran said...
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gonovice said...

Here's a much better book about about wolves: Barry Holstun Lopez's Of Wolves and Men. First published in 1978, it is available in paperback or hardbound as one of the Scribner Classics series.