Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Richard Ellis' "Tuna: A Love Story"

Richard Ellis is the author of more than a dozen books. He is also a celebrated marine artist whose paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. He has written and illustrated articles for numerous magazines, including Audubon, National Geographic, Discover, Smithsonian, and Scientific American.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Tuna: A Love Story, and reported the following:
When he said "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you," Ford Madox Ford probably wasn't thinking about illustrated books. In Tuna: A Love Story, page ninety-nine is about Ernest Hemingway's experiences with the bluefin tuna, but half the page is occupied by a photograph of Hemingway and a very big fish. The excerpt may reveal the "quality of the whole," but it suggests that the book is about fishing, which it isn't. It's actually about the plight of the mighty bluefin, being fished to extinction by the demands of the Japanese sushi market.

Here's the text from pp. 98-100 and the photo from pg. 99:

Ernest Hemingway never wrote a non-fiction book about fishing, but he did write the introduction to Kip Farrington’s Atlantic Game Fishing, in which he bemoaned the lack of “sportsmanship” in the activity and criticized those anglers who spend vast amounts of money in pursuit of world records. He wrote, “Seriously though, it is a grand sport, but it needs some simple and decent rules if it is to continue competitively. It will be all right with me. I would like to go back to fishing for fun and take a day off and go snapper fishing over by the concrete ship.” Hemingway truly admired the great billfishes, and his experiences with marlin and swordfish were woven into his novels, The Old Man and the Sea (1952), and Islands in the Stream (1970). According to Farrington, who also wrote Fishing with Hemingway and Glassell, Hemingway “was one of three men who turned down the honor of fishing with the U.S. Tuna Team after the international matches were begun in 1937. He never fished up there at all.” However, from his boat Pilar, off Bimini in 1935, Hemingway landed two bluefins weighing 310 and 381 pounds. George Reiger wrote that “Hemingway evolved a theory for the successful capture of an unmutilated tuna. From the instant the fish took the bait, he argued, you simply had to fight the animal like there was no tomorrow. He believed that once any fish ‘understood’ that it was dealing with a superior force, then the job of landing it became half as hard.”
Read an excerpt from Tuna: A Love Story, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue