Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Death in the Grizzly Maze

When we spotted Death in the Grizzly Maze: The Timothy Treadwell Story by Mike Lapinski (2005) at our local used bookshop over the holidays, and for the low price of $7.50, we decided to pass some long winter's night hours reading through it. 

Meh. We give it a five on a scale of one to ten.

Lapinski repeats himself in many chapters and doesn't really say much that's very new or different from the general consensus that Treadwell was kind of an idiot. He also seems to have a bone to pick with "eco-warriors" and doesn't distinguish between Sea Shepard and NRDC, marking him as a lumper rather than a splitter in the taxonomy of eco-whatever. And Lapinski really doesn't get us much further in our understanding of Ami Huguenard, despite his protestations that most media coverage ignored her. Did she keep a journal? Did her friends know she was up there? That poor woman. But most importantly, he barely mentions the bears at all, except as bit players in Treadwell's drama, when they are rightfully the kings and queens of Hallo Bay and Treadwell merely an interloper. Rather than repeat the quotes from biologists and prattle on about the use of bear spray, a chapter or two about the natural history of the grizzly would have contextualized the story and engaged the reader in the critter that so captivated Treadwell.

We deeply understand the desire to connect with wild animals, any animals. We know folks who are plumb nutty about predators. We know folks who have raised wild animals from babies, but it is always the same story. A wild animal is driven by secret desires. We should always be respectful and wary of those secrets. The book does little to explore the mysteries of the bears and the awe they inspire, and instead seems an extended condemnation of the basic facts of Treadwell's foolishness. Ho hum. 

P.S. Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock has much more about the natural history of bears and is a more compelling and thoughtful read. And the film "Grizzly Man" by Werner Herzog is equally good for passing the hours on a wintery evening.

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