Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"The Secret Life of Lobsters" - Trevor Corson & Mark Kurlansky "The Big Oyster: A Molluscular History of New York"

I've never eaten oysters and only tried lobster once (and don't remember it very well to tell the thruth, so this might seem like a strange pair of books to review. Although different in narrative style - Corson focuses on a few fishermen and scientists to tell his story, while Kurlansky takes on the entire story of New York City and the close relation with its oyster beds - they do share similarities. Both speak of food items that were once so plentiful as to be thought of as poor people fare. The case of oysters is a little different since, as the author points out, it was probably one of the few dishes in history to be simultaneously a luxury and a daily meal (for oystermen, but also people of modest means). And both - the history of the eventual destruction of New York oyster beds and the struggle to understand the reality of lobster grounds (are they being overfished or not?) speak of our abuse of resources and our ignorance of the natural world and its rhythms. "Lobsters" proved a more agreable read: there is a lot about the science of lobsters (and it's great how passionate the scientists and fishermen are about these weird crustaceans. Corson style of non-fiction narrative is definitely a grower. Although I kept confusing the various lobstermen families I still found everyone very interesting and story engaging. Kurlansky's book is more about the ties to New York City history and lacks actual protagonists. At times I felt the story lagged a little. Still, for oyster devotees I imagine it nust be a fascinating read.

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