SKIPJACK

THE STORY OF AMERICA’S LAST SAILING OYSTERMEN

An illuminating, somewhat mournful story of a dying art form.

Journalist/naturalist White (Chesapeake Bay: Nature of the Estuary, 1989, etc.) produces a hands-on survey of Chesapeake Bay’s dangerous and colorful skipjack shellfishery.

A decade ago, when White lived on the Maryland side of the bay, he rented a house on Tilghman’s Island, with its holdout community of skipjacks—sailing oystermen. The author does a fine job explaining the activity: A two-masted wooden sailboat pulls a brace of dredges over oyster banks, taking advantage (or not) of the wind’s strength and direction to work the beds. Like the bay’s two other famous catches, blue crabs and striped bass, oysters are on the wane, prey to overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, disease and regulatory mismanagement—all topics White ably handles as a skilled naturalist. As the author works the boats with them, the old-time skipjack watermen—even ten years ago but a handful, accounting for less than five percent of the oyster haul—fill the White’s ear with stories of the past that give evidence to their enigmatic reputation as part outlaw—they will be the first to admit that watermen are very much players in the overfishing problem—part conservationist. White offers two tales: the history of the skipjack as a lovely boat and a livelihood; and his experience working on a skipjack, with their notoriously thorny captains, the toil and occasional terror, yet also the “all-but-forgotten world of reading the sky and the water, of harnessing the wind to catch your supper,” of the “waterman as part of the ecology of the Bay.” The author also provides gratifying forays into attendant skipjack activities, such as blacksmithing and oyster shucking.

An illuminating, somewhat mournful story of a dying art form.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-54532-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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