Roderick L(angmere) Haig-Brown Raymond R. Camp - Essay

Raymond R. Camp

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There is gallantry in sacrifice for an ideal. When such sacrifice is made by a reasoning human we term it heroism, but when performed by an unreasoning fish we pass it off lightly under the heading of instinct.

No one who reads Roderick L. Haig-Brown's "Return to the River" will deny the gallantry of the Chinook salmon….

The book is much more than the mere tale of a salmon, for Mr. Haig-Brown has not neglected the dramatic values or the human equation. The contents are as far removed from scientific text as the Chinook is from the bullhead. It is enhanced by the author's ability to bring out what might well be termed the romance of the commonplace.

So pleasantly and easily does the story run, you are somewhat surprised at its conclusion to realize that you have learned quite a bit about Chinook salmon, the waters in which they live, and the men who seek them for recreation, profit or study.

There is, hidden in the story, a sharp knife for those who have gutted our natural resources for gain and who have had neither thought nor concern for the future….

No one will classify as "dull" the story of Spring, the Chinook, for through the factual material there is a wide tracery of imagination. The birth, escapes, travels and ultimate death of Spring, all stressing the unity of purpose that enables the fish to return to the very pool in which it was spawned, form a narrative that is intensely interesting.

Raymond R. Camp, "The Gallant Life of the Chinook Salmon," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1941 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 5, 1941, p. 11.