cover image BEYOND INNOCENCE: An Autobiography in Letters—The Later Years

BEYOND INNOCENCE: An Autobiography in Letters—The Later Years

Jane Goodall, , edited by Dale Peterson. . Houghton Mifflin, $28 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-618-12520-3

The second volume of primatologist Goodall's personal and professional correspondence, this book is a welcome sequel to the critically acclaimed Africa in My Blood. Like that collection, it is edited by Goodall's sometime coauthor Dale Peterson (The Deluge and the Ark), who has wisely retained Goodall's erratic use of punctuation (e.g., multiple exclamation points and emphatic dashes) rather than cleaning it up. As a result, these letters have an immediacy and freshness that a more traditional autobiography could not have conveyed. Goodall's tendency to describe major scientific discoveries as "so super" is both charming and moving. Writing to her family about the chance discovery that ostriches use stones to break open eggs, thus putting them in the same tool-utilizing class as chimps, she exclaims, "I have to tell you our most EXCITING news... It is dead secret at the moment till published in Nature. A NEW TOOL!!!!! Isn't it FANTASTIC!!" Readers may also be amused by Goodall's somewhat dismissive remarks about fellow researcher Dian Fossey ("the gorilla girl"), her offhand comments about her own groundbreaking research ("my chimp stuff") and her habit of juxtaposing descriptions of her own baby with those of chimp offspring. They also will be fascinated to learn that some of Goodall's writings on more disturbing topics—such as a polio epidemic—were rejected by National Geographic on the grounds that they were "too sad." (July 12)

Forecast:These letters confirm Goodall's reputation as a writer whose capacity to empathize with the animals she studies truly separates her from the pack. Her fans will clamor for this book.