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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Philip Hoare and The Whale

The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the SeaThe Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea by Philip Hoare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was very happy with _The Whale._  Like Herman Melville in _Moby-Dick_, Philip Hoare gives a sweeping view of how whales have affected human society.  He also spends a lot of time cataloging the disturbing details of the whaling industry: I was particularly struck by how whalers would use a whale's blubber to fuel the fires that rendered the rest of the animal's fat.  On whaling ships, whales would cook themselves.

Hoare also has a good ear for lush language.  Listen to him on page 290: "And how to convey that magnitude, that mass of whalish flesh, that cavern of ceiling-high baleen?"  If you like natural history, and are partial to poetic prose, this is the book for you.

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