A Season At Sea

Tis the season for holidays and gift giving and such. Turns out, for me twas also the season for some seafaring reading. Though I have said for sure that I read in tangents elsewhere, I can not recall if I have said so here and I am too lazy to go back and look. My reading (and a bit of watching as well) this month began with an adventure and has largely stayed the course from whence it began.

At the top of my ‘to read’ list coming into this month was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I grew up an avid reader and in my earliest reading years I managed to get through a ton of classic adventure stories, among them Robin Hood, The Three musketeers, Tarzan. My two favorites were Johanna Spyri’s Heidi and  Johann David Wyss’ Swiss Family Robinson.  That being said, it is a wonder to me how Stevenson’s pirate adventure didn’t make it into my early reading list. Treasure Island is a fantastic story. Half the joy in reading it is in the story itself, which, does not lack in thrill despite my having been reared with the ride, the movies and the countless novel variations this particular story has spawned. In fact, the other ‘half’ of the joy in reading this book is knowing that it is the origins of so many literary constructs and cultural artifacts I’ve encountered over the years. From the annoying parrot, to the Jolly Roger, Treasure Island itself; Stevenson’s novel is the archetypal blue print for the 100s (1000s?) of pirate tales published/circulated  in its wake.  

Sad as I am that I missed the rollicking (yeah, I said it.) good time that is Treasure Island in my youth, I do know that had I encountered this work as a child it could not have led me down the literary path it has this month. Perhaps, literary is overstated.  There is one film, a documentary, that I watched this month that lends itself thematically to the texts I have traversed this season.

A gift from Eddie to Me and from Me to You…


The first I heard of The Cove was Eddie Vedder mentioning it on stage back in October. He, Vedder, said something to the effect of, I saw this documentary and was devastated by the lows we have sunk too  but here tonight I can recall our humanity. Again, that was a paraphrase I was a bit out of it as he spoke for two reasons, one, I had never heard of The Cove so I had no idea to what he was referring and, two, in the near to 30 years that I have attended concerts I have NEVER experienced anything like the sound of 20,000 people singing along at the top of their lungs for hours. Stunning, the vocal performance of the crowd that is. Having now seen The Cove that is stunning as well.   

The Cove in their own words:

 In The Cove, a team of activists and filmmakers infiltrate a heavily guarded cove in Taiji, Japan. In this remote village they witness and document activities deliberately being hidden from the public: More than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are being slaughtered each year and their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is being sold as food in Japan, often times labeled as whale meat.

Not only are the hunting practices depicted in The Cove deplorable but the point of the hunt is twofold, one, to produce meat which is largely inedible. The meat is toxic. Second, the hunt is to procure dolphins, Bottlenose in particular, for dolphinariums around the globe. The whole sale slaughter of thousands of animals is funded for our entertainment. Stunning.

Back to the page turning…

The book I next delved into next was Ernest Hemingway’s, The Old Man & The Sea. This was my first encounter with Hemingway but it will not be my last. In fact, I would hazard to guess that January or at the very least the new year holds within it a Hemingway tangent. Typically, I prefer my prose in more poetic vein, lyrical and subtle. James Galvin has long been my favorite author with his work of prose The Meadow standing as my favorite book. I covet Galvin his elegance and attention to detail. I have often made the joke of my own writing in relationship to Galvin’s, asserting  that I aspire to be him ‘when I grow up.’ The reason I share this, is that Hemingway’s sparse ‘bare bones’ prose could not be further removed from Galvin’s style and yet I loved it. I have a particular fondness at this point in my life for getting to the point. Just saying what you mean. Hemingway does that in spades. I’ve yet to settle on the next work of his that I will engage but I’m thinking a novel…


As The Year Ends…


Finding myself still drawn towards stories of the sea I went ahead and picked up a history of the Caribbean. Specifically, I am currently finishing Stephan Talty’s,  Empire of Blue Water. Empire of Blue Water gives a detailed history of the Caribbean with a lens on the story of Captain Morgan in particular. Captain Morgan (no, not the rum) led as fantastic a life as any down in the South Seas. His island adventures are covered spanning his time moving up through the ranks of Privateers, into outright piracy and ultimately his turn to statesmanship. I am hard pressed to think of another regional history I have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed Empire. So much so that my Caribbean adventure does not end here…

On deck…

Within the next couple of days I hope to start David Cordingly’s, Under The Black Flag.


3 Responses

  1. As someone who has read just about everything that Hemingway has published, I would suggest Islands in the Stream next to you, in keeping with the theme of being at sea, which is at least part of the scene in this one.

    Chris Badali

    • Thank you, Chris! As I said, I have no idea where to begin so Islands in the Stream sounds fantastic.

  2. […] here before not to long ago, right? Right? I looked up my last blog on books about the sea…December 2009. Daumn. Just so we’re clear, in my reading mind I was just there! JUST there, reading […]

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