Monday, July 9, 2007

If We Still Used Whale Oil, Nantucket Would Be As Wealthy As Dubai (And No One Would Ever Mention Building Wind Farms)

Eric Jay Dolin's Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America was released in bookstores this past week, with two great beasties to contend with:
1. The fact that every book ever written about whaling -- fiction or non -- will inevitably be compared to Moby Dick.
2. The fast-approaching final installment of the Harry Potter series. There's still two weeks to go, but it is already sucking up the majority of America's book sale dollars like the immense whirlpool left in a diving whale's wake.
As the type of reader who sympathized with Ahab, I'd like to toss a floating coffin or two the underdog's way. Here's some links related to Dolin's book.

The New York Sun has nothing but kind words for the book, while adding this interesting aside to readers horrified at the idea of whaling: "Today's reader, taught by decades of save-the-whales activism to regard the slaughter of whales as a particularly gruesome form of exploitation, is inclined to join the whales' celebration. (In fact, the party was premature: As American whaling declined, Russian, Norwegian, and Japanese fleets took up the slack.) But Mr. Dolin, whose environmentalist credentials are impeccable — he is the author of the Smithsonian Book of Natural Wildlife Refuges — recognizes that modern taboos won't help us understand the history of whaling. He 'seeks to recreate what whaling was,' he writes, 'not to address what it is or should be now.'"

Author John Steele Gordon reviews the book for the Wall Street Journal. He digs it plenty.

The Los Angeles Times reviews it favorably, saying, "Leviathan will appeal most to history buffs and ocean lovers. Occasionally, readers may get lost in the details — it can be a bit like reading Moby Dick without the narrative — but what details they are! Exotic locations, colorful characters, melodrama and gore aplenty, but also food for thought."

To hear the Dolin read from Leviathan, click here.

To visit his website, stab your harpoons here.