The Boatman By John Burbidge. A review by John Cook



The Boatman copy

This book has been mentioned several times at group meetings, so my comments are minimal. I agree with most of what has been said except to note that it is a little understandably sad that it has taken thirty years to come to fruition.

My second point is that it has gone a little way to overcome my prejudices (fears?) of visiting India which have kept me away as a visitor. I always, cautiously, enjoy meeting everyday people in the countries I have visited and Burbidge makes it clear that this was an unnecessary fear in the case of India.

My last comment relates to the almost feverish pace with which Burbidge plunged to his ‘boating’ activities and his gradual recognition that he was almost becoming addicted to his experiences. Whether he realised it or not, his story can be read as a classic case of intermittent reinforcement with so many examples of fractional anticipatory stimuli and responses. This can be seen in his preparations, the business of navigating, the process of sizing up what is available (with the sub-menu of what is seen as desirable to him) and locating a place to make sexual contact. The only thing lacking would be a counting or classifying behaviour with recording and I suspect he engaged in this or has a prodigious memory.

It would be most interesting to hear more of his post-India life.


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