An eloquent attempt to grasp the Japanese experience of the “The Wave,” which was “center and fringe at once, a totality,...

FACING THE WAVE

A JOURNEY IN THE WAKE OF THE TSUNAMI

Lyrical, meandering dispatches and eyewitness accounts from the devastation of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Deeply engaged in Japanese culture and history since her first trips to Japan in 1968, poet and nature writer Ehrlich (In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape, 2010, etc.) made several visits to Japan in the months after the shattering earthquake and tsunami. Moving along the coast in the company of her friend Masumi and her family, who live in Sendai, near the epicenter, Ehrlich tried simply to make sense of the unspeakable horror the Japanese experienced, recording accounts by traumatized survivors and her own poignant on-the-ground observations. The tsunami waves wrecked 400 miles of Japan’s northeastern coast and caused the lethal meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which had long needed repairs, resulting in a national scandal. Exploring the coast where Masumi spent her childhood, wearing protective clothing against radiation, Ehrlich viewed a “wild place of total devastation,” where the sea wall was useless in keeping back the towering waves and entire towns were wiped out. The author records eyewitness blogs, such as by the fisherman who rushed out to sea just after the last big earthquake struck (preceded by several smaller ones) and watched the tsunami devastate his home, before being stuck for days on his boat without food. Ehrlich visited shrines that became evacuation centers and crematoriums during the crisis, and she mixes some Buddhist ideas of perishability with haiku from Matsuo Basho and her own work. Ehrlich renders the enormity of loss in a fashion comprehensible to her American readers.

An eloquent attempt to grasp the Japanese experience of the “The Wave,” which was “center and fringe at once, a totality, both destructive and beautiful.”

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-90731-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

THE BOOK OF EELS

OUR ENDURING FASCINATION WITH THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CREATURE IN THE NATURAL WORLD

An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

more