Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Eric Jay Dolin's "A Furious Sky"

Eric Jay Dolin is the best-selling author of Fur, Fortune, and Empire, When America First Met China, Brilliant Beacons, and Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates.

Dolin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America's Hurricanes, and reported the following:
Applying The Page 99 Test to A Furious Sky poses an interesting dilemma: do you include only the text, or the text and the image? That is because half of the page is a black-and-white image. To honor Ford Madox Ford's dictum, I think you have to consider both the text and the image, since they are so intimately intertwined. So, here they are.
A body in the wreckage on the wharf after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900
Dead and mangled bodies were found under, over, within, and next to the wreckage. Bloated corpses, covered in silt and sand, with arms and legs contorted into unnatural positions, littered the macabre landscape—a silent testament to the hurricane’s power. Most contemporary accounts place the number killed at 6,000, but since the real number cannot be known, there is little doubt that it was higher still. The unusually hot weather had brought numerous visitors to Galveston to enjoy the surf and sand, but just how many of them died is unknown. An untold number of people were also swept out to sea or into the bay, and never seen again. Thus, the death toll might have been 8,000, 10,000, or even more.
This image and passage is part of the chapter on the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which is the deadliest natural disaster in American history. It is the storm against which all others are measured, and every year it becomes part of the national conversation swirling around the relentless march of hurricane season, as news outlets trot out the Galveston Hurricane’s gruesome particulars for comparison’s sake.

For A Furious Sky, The Page 99 Test captures the raw drama and human tragedy that is on display in the book, but it fails to grasp the great breadth and depth of the book. While A Furious Sky profiles many of the most significant and deadly hurricanes in American history, such as the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, it is not simply a parade of horribles, and a portrait of death and destruction. The book uses hurricanes to tell a much richer and fascinating story about American history and the 400-year evolution of our interactions with, and understanding of, hurricanes. This includes, among other things, intriguing accounts of advances in meteorology, communications, forecasting, computer modeling, satellite technology, emergency response, and weather reporting. A Furious Sky also shows how hurricanes have changed the course of history, and how climate change and global warming will likely make future hurricanes worse than they have been in the past.

Every year, America is pummeled by hurricanes. A Furious Sky will help you put that pummeling into historical context, and add to the majesty, as well as the horrors, of the greatest storms on earth.
Learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue