This is my 4th Matthiessen, and this one seems the most unlike him. In the others, he creates more of a narrative, so that the search for the snow leopard or the facts of Wounded Knee build some momentum. I don’t know what to make of this one – part journal (his and pieces from others), part interviews, part research. It does not all really fit together into a coherent piece. In addition, the characters, such as they are, are only roughly delineated. Still, there’s nothing like a good shark attack story to get the heart racing. And, when they finally do find a great white, I was both excited and relieved for the crew.
This book hasn’t aged well. There’s one crew member who has to apply to his country to be considered “white,” which, set in its time and place, is fine. But a comment from another crew member, along the lines of, “I like him so much that I think of him as white” cuts deep.
I can’t recommend it, though I would be interested in seeing the movie the crew made based on the various expeditions Matthiessen records.