Lyall Watson (1939-2008) was a naturalist and the author of over twenty books, including Heaven's Breath and Jacobson's Organ.
Prolific naturalist Watson (Jacobson's Organ) spent his childhood summers in South Africa exploring the countryside with his young companions. His life changed forever when he observed his first wild elephant. Elephantoms is a blend of childhood memories and a natural history of South Africa, particularly of elephants. While Watson draws on the work of well-known explorers and researchers, such as Frederick Selous, Katy Payne, and Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton, and intersperses many of his personal experiences and observations, the book reads more like the memoirs of the elephant itself. While there is a wealth of information here, it is not presented logically but woven into the text. The rambling narrative style does not diminish the treasures to be gleaned from Watson's personal experiences, especially those following his studies with Desmond Morris and the infamous Niko Tinbergen, but it might frustrate readers simply looking to learn more about the species. This enjoyable diversion from standard natural history presentations is recommended for public libraries where there is interest in a more personal approach to the study of animals. Readers looking for titles with more species details might want to consider Cynthia Moss's Echo of the Elephants or Elephant Memories. Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"This compelling book is filled with warmth, wisdom and depth... I could not imagine a better introduction to these mysterious and wondrous creatures, than this fine and loving book." -- Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep "An absorbing, beautifully written memoir focusing on one of the most amazing animals that has ever lived." -- Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape "Elephantoms is above all a celebration of scientific and intuitive wonder, a work of mystery and delight." -- Wade Davis, author of One River "Much more evocatively than any zoologist has ever managed, Watson makes the elephant a force of nature..." -- Kirkus Reviews "[R]econnects us to something old and fundamental inside ourselves: a wordless brotherhood with the nonhuman, a lost intuitive understanding." -- National Geographic Adventure "[P]rovides a wonderful overview of creatures that remember, mourn, and even draw pictures." -- Science News "Watson is at his peak literary style...impressive." -- B. A. Brittingham - Midwest Book Review "Readers need not share Watson's level of fascination to find this book interesting...entertaining and enchanting." -- Stephen Mihm - Washington Post
Delightfully multidimensional, Watson's latest describes how through an enchanted childhood and a lucky adulthood he has been haunted by elephants. Watson fills his memoir with metaphorical tales, creating a spiritual and emotional rendering of elephants. He retells the old fable, for instance, of a group of blind men trying to describe an elephant when each can only examine a portion of it: its tail, its ear, its leg. Watson's is an adventure story filled with explanations of natural history. Seemingly tangential discussions enrich every topic, from the family tree of languages demonstrating the rarity of the click language of a Bushman he meets to the philosophy of tracking elephants. Like a shaman, Watson (Jacobson's Organ) conjures up the spirit of the massive beasts who can disappear in plain view and can be felt from miles away. He describes how elephants have shaped the land and people around them for as long as they have existed. They are intelligent, self-aware and profoundly emotional. Elephants have filled mystical spaces in the world, and Watson illustrates this through such examples as cave paintings, the royal white elephants of Siam and a story about a boy who, possessed to draw monsters until a Bushman intervenes, finds calm in drawing elephants. The fantastic adventures of Watson's youth in South Africa and his later years studying elephant history and zoology are tantalizing, and his chronicle of these majestic creatures will cast a spell on readers. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.