Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ah the world, oh the whale

I finished Leviathan or, The Whale this weekend. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Award winning too.

Part history of whales and whaling (an industry seemingly forgotten, but at one point one of the world's most important), part history of Moby Dick and its author, and part meditation on the being and essence of whales, and their interaction with man through time, it is an utterly beguiling read; evocative and strange; mysterious and elegant; poetic, sad, brutal, uplifting and tragic in the same paragraphs on numerous occasions.

Whaling; think: men in rowing boats approaching animals weighing 60 tonnes, of 60ft, 70ft, 80ft in length, armed with harpoons to be propelled by their own strength, and nothing more. All to catch and brutally kill a creature whose oil was as valuable as gold. Being rammed, drowned, swallowed alive all a serious risk; at sea for three to five years. A way of life for hundreds of years. The first oil that made America a powerhouse.

Facts too: the world's official clock is lubricated with whale oil . The internal workings of the Hubble telescope have whale oil inside them. Up there, a whale orbits the earth; Douglas Adams was closer to the truth than he knew.

Unique, interesting, strange and compelling, this book is the best £6.29 you could spend.


James Evison said...

If you missed this Dan, it was fantastic:

Dan W said...

Hello. I did indeed watch that programme. It was good and covered a few similar areas to the book. I felt it wasn't quite as strong though as it lacked his writing, and had to jump around too much; unlike the book which gives over around 30/40 pages to each topic it covers.

James Evison said...

The inevitable dumbing down for television. I really want to read the book, it sounds fantastic and written in an interesting reportage style.