PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Writer Malcolm J. Brenner got a pleasant surprise on a recent Monday morning when he read a web site that plugged Wet Goddess, his epic human-dolphin love story. The story was picked up by Brenner’s routine Google Alerts search.
On November 13, The Inquisitor published a review of an edgy Saturday Night Live skit featuring Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant as a pair of female scientists trying to train a dolphin to communicate. When the dolphin hits adolescence, they find the only way to keep him on task is to masturbate him. Host Tiffany Haddish plays a colleague who finds the whole thing nasty. The skit manages to be funny, cheesy and satirical at the same time.
It’s based on the actual relationship between a kindergarten teacher, Margaret Howe Lovatt, and Peter, a male bottlenose dolphin kept in a unique living arrangement at the Communications Research Institute on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early 1960’s. Lilly described the unusual situation, which was intended to teach Peter how to speak English, in his 1967 book The Mind of the Dolphin.
During six weeks of living with Peter in a flooded room day in and day out, Lovatt found him demanding she masturbate him before their lessons would continue. Eager to continue the research, and unable to rationalize any objections to Peter’s advances, Howe complied. Lilly used parts of her notes in his book.
The Inquisitor also referenced a 2014 article in The Mirror, a British tabloid newspaper, which interviewed Brenner about his dolphin experience by phone. That article, in turn, linked to an earlier story about Lovatt and Peter.
Asked whether the exposure had any effect on sales of his novel, Brenner said “I’m not sure, but I sold four copies over the weekend, which is unusual. The first sale came in from the next time zone west of me at about 11:30 p.m. my time, so I don’t know whether SNL would have been on there. But I’ll take any publicity I can get! Thanks, guys, the check is in the mail!”
Brenner recently had to completely re-do the layout for his dolphin novel before having the next order printed. “I’ve written two other books since Wet Goddess was published in 2010, and I wanted to add a couple of pages at the end of the book to let readers know about my other work, which is equally radical.
“Because Microsoft had changed its Word document creation software between 2010 and now, the original .doc file had paragraph spacing errors when I opened it in an up-to-date version that uses the .docx filename. I ended up having to completely reformat the book, adding two new photos to take up some blank space,” Brenner continued.
Ever the perfectionist, Brenner had no sooner gotten the books back from the printer than he found another minor typo in them. “That’s the beauty of short-run printing,” he explained. “You may not be able to afford an editor or a proofreader, but any goofs you make can be corrected in the next print run.”
Wet Goddess has sold about 1,400 copies in 18 countries and been translated into Russian, Brenner said. His other books are 2014’s Growing Up in the Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood, a memoir, and a 2016 science fiction novel, Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair.