Sunday, January 16, 2011

Five best books about fury & terror on the high seas

Geoffrey Wolff's nonfiction books include Black Sun (Random House, 1976), on the short-lived avant-garde poet Harry Crosby; The Art of Burning Bridges: A Life of John O’Hara (Knopf, 2003), a literary biography of the American fiction writer; The Duke of Deception (Random House, 1979), a memoir that was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize; The Edge of Maine (National Geographic, 2005), a rich portrayal of the salty, sea-pounded, and seasonally gentrified Maine coast; and The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum (Knopf 2010), a biography of the legendary icon of adventure.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books about fury and terror on the high seas. One title on the list:
Sailing Alone Around the World
by Joshua Slocum (1900)

Here is the best book I know about sailing, not to mention danger, solitude, fear and forbearance. Joshua Slocum's three-year journey undertaken in 1895 was the first solo circumnavigation of the globe, but that achievement is incidental to the thrill of this story. Slocum had been at sea for 35 years as an ordinary seaman, mate and master before embarking on his adventure. In his life, he had suffered shipwreck and mutiny and been tried for murder. Alone in the Strait of Magellan, battered for weeks, he experienced an epiphany and came to appreciate nature's blank indifference. He learned, in a way he makes his readers experience, to accept with equanimity—relish, even—freak waves, foul currents and being blown back after inching forward, only to inch forward again.
Read about the other books on the list.

Sailing Alone Around the World is on Naval historian David Cordingly's critic's chart of ship books and among Simon Winchester's six favorite books about sailing.

--Marshal Zeringue