Reading again a book - The Log from the Sea of Cortez
- which I think with Of Mice and Men
(a profoundly thoughtful book) formed my introduction to a man who became one of my favourite writers - the American author John Steinbeck (though I have not read all of his books).
I'm not sure, but I think The Log
may have been the first book by Steinbeck that I read (it was either that or Of Mice
that was the first, anyway). As a child of 12 y/o I found it (a Penguin paperback) amongst the books at home, and, being interested in all things biology and including marine biology (my earliest years included living beside the sea, and later on the seaside was never far away and I was fascinated by marine pond life), I was curious enough to read the book.
I recall that, initially I had somehow been expecting the book to be fictional. I discovered that it was a non-fictional account of a six-week marine specimen-collecting boat expedition that Steinbeck and a marine biologist friend (Ed Ricketts) made in 1940, along various coastal sites in the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The book introduced me to a few new things/ideas (e.g., that people might have the time and inclination to explore a coastal region, collecting specimens, just out of scientific curiosity) and I learned a special new word - "littoral":
· adj. of, relating to, or on the shore of the sea or a lake.
· n. a littoral region.
– ORIGIN C17: from L. littoralis, from litus, litor- ‘shore’.
Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th Ed.)
I learned that what was special about this word was that, for a biologist, it described a narrow environmental band along all seashores around the planet - an environment that provided a unique ecosystem that supported a diverse collection of flora and fauna specialised to survive in that environment and not generally found elsewhere - i.e., usually only in that band between low and high tidal marks.
As a result, whenever I find myself on a seaside beach (lakes seem to be less diverse/interesting), in whatever country I happen to be, I invariably end up wandering along the beach, exploring the littoral by myself, or with my children, and it always reminds me of the book The Log from the Sea of Cortez
, though I have always thought the title of the book somewhat misleading, since it is a log of a voyage along just a tiny part
(the littoral) of the Gulf of California - i.e., hardly a pukka "sea" voyage per se
I was reminded by a post - at brainpickings.org here
- of something that Steinbeck wrote - in his letters, that could also be be relevant to the the New Year of 2017 which for us is just beginning. He wrote it on January 1, 1941, when the world was in the midst of the WW2 Holocaust:
"... Speaking of the happy new year, I wonder if any year ever had less chance of being happy. It’s as though the whole race were indulging in a kind of species introversion — as though we looked inward on our neuroses. And the thing we see isn’t very pretty… So we go into this happy new year, knowing that our species has learned nothing, can, as a race, learn nothing — that the experience of ten thousand years has made no impression on the instincts of the million years that preceded. ..."
- but he went on in very thoughtful and philosophically optimistic vein for the future of the good