The Oxford book of the sea
Truly the source of eternal fascination, the sea is one of the enduring subjects of literature, and certainly the most protean. Indeed, the sea in literature is as liquid and as volatile as the sea in life, shaping itself anew for every writer and every generation. For Addison and Burke, it was the realm of the sublime, of "foaming billows and floating mountains," of agreeable horror." For Romantics such as Turner, it was pure, unpent nature at its wildest and most magnificent, and for Coleridge, a mysterious and hallucinogenic place. And if for Melville it was a bountiful sea of metaphor, for Ben Franklin it was devoid of metaphor but teeming with natural wonders, curiosities, and lessons.
Now, inveterate sailor and bestselling author of Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Jonathan Rabam, has compiled a remarkable anthology of our changing visions of the sea, a rich treasury of writings as varied and enthralling as the ocean itself. Arranged chronologically, and spanning everything from Anglo-Saxon poetry to modern oceanography, these excerpts capture the work of poets, novelists, scientists, explorers, in a collection that blends the practical with the beautiful, the comic with the terrifying. Readers can savor Samuel Eliot Morison's picture of October spring tides on the coast of Maine, "when the blueberry bushes on top of the granite cliffs turn a brilliant crimson and the maple near shore sends up torches of gold and scarlet among the evergreen, all reflected in the quiet waters." Or James Boswell's intimate portrait of Samuel Johnson below deck, "lying in philosophical tranquillity, with a greyhound of Col's at his back, keeping him warm." Or Dickens' comic memoir of being seasick on a rolling deck ("I found myself standing...holding on to something. I don't know what. I think it was the boatswain: or it may have been the pump: or possibly the cow").
Those who love nature writing will find that Raban includes a wide selection, such as Darwin's account of the Beagle surging through a glimmering, phosphorescent nighttime sea, Rachel Carson's explanation of the color of the sea, and David Lewis's discovery that Pacific islanders navigate more by feel than by sight, by the roll and pitch of their vessels as they corkscrew over the waves. And for everyone who loves great writing, Raban includes not only passages from the great sea classics--such as Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, and Two Years Before the Mast--but also lesser-known gems by writers such as Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Elizabeth Bishop, E.B. White, Emily Dickinson, and John Barth.
Whether you love Darwin or Rachel Carson, Joseph Conrad or Robert Lowell, The Oxford Book of the Sea is as bountiful and alluring as its subject. For everyone interested in the sea, from sailors and beachcombers to armchair voyagers, and for everyone drawn to fine writing, this book is an excursion you won't want to miss.
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