Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.-Edward Gibbon

Tuesday, on the subway, I finished up Owen Chase’s The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. It’s an absolutely crazy account, although I guess not that crazy since it did actually happen. Basically, the case of the Essex is the first recorded incident of a whale purposely ramming a whaleship (twice actually). After the second ramming the whaleship foundered, and the crew was left to survive in three whaleboats. Over the course of months spent at sea, the three boats end up separating from each other, rations run out, members of the crew start to die, and the remaining members resort to cannibalism to survive.

Chase’s account is very to the point and factual, without any frills or over embellishing, but that’s part of what makes it so great. Even though the reader knows that it must have been an absolutely harrowing experience, we are spared the crews inner thoughts and spoken words, and thus the work doesn’t begin to take on the veneer of fiction. I believe that it would be very difficult for a reader (at least me anyway) to stay attached to this story if there was too much detail; it would be just too graphic and desperate. However, if you like that sort of thing, there is also Nathanial Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I’m not sure I can read that one though.

I began reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen again (third time, I think), but yesterday I was at the thrift store and spotted Sophie Kinsella’s latest Remember Me?. I read the entire thing last night (it’s near 400 pages), and I liked it. Kinsella’s books are great when you just need a breezy, upbeat, good-ending type of read. I’ve read everything by her now, except the stuff she has under another name. I really liked this one because it had a different kind of struggle for the heroine than any of the others. This one is really about being your “authentic self” (as Oprah would say), and what happens when you change who you really are for other people, money, ambition, etc. I liked it, although I would have liked a slightly different ending, but that’s just me. I really needed this type of book right now, it’s been a rough few days since my Grandmother had a heart attack on Tuesday and has been in the hospital since. I hope she’ll be okay.

Now we’re back to Mansfield Park again…again.

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