Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fishby James Prosek
They are the only fish that spawn in the middle of the ocean but spend their adult lives in freshwater. They can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and even cross over land. They are revered as guardians and monster-seducers by New Zealand's Maori and have inspired origin myths throughout the Pacific Islands. Often viewed with disgust in the West, they are a multibillion-dollar business in the Asian food market. And they are often mistaken for snakes. They are eelsone of the world's most amazing and least understood fish. (Yes, fish.)
James Prosek offers a fascinating tour through the life history and cultural associations of the freshwater eel, exploring its biology in streams and epic migrations in the ocean, its myth and lore, its mystery and beauty. Prosek travels the globe to tell the story of the eelfrom New York to New Zealand; from Europe to Japan and the small island of Pohnpei in Micronesia, where freshwater eels are worshipped by members of the eel clan. Along the way he introduces individuals whose lives are most connected with the eels' storyincluding fishermen, conservationists, and scientists seeking to uncover the eels' elusive home in the Sargasso Sea and their spawning places in other oceans of the world. Though freshwater eels have been here for hundreds of millions of years, populations are rapidly declining, due largely to dams, overfishing, pollution, and perhaps even global climate change.
Illustrated with original etchings by the author, Eels is a mesmerizing biography and history of this intriguing and mysterious creature. It is also a telling look at humanity, the will to persist, and the ever-changing relationship between man and the natural world.
Prosek (Bird, Butterfly, Eel, 2009, etc.) seeks to get a grip on that slippery creature, the eel.
Eels can grow as big as pythons and routinely do in the western Pacific, and they are slimy and can inflict a wicked bite. Their association with the snake often stirs unease, but not in the author, who has fallen under the eel's spell—not unlike that experienced in the cultures and cosmologies of the Maori of New Zealand, the Chinese and Japanese and the people on the Pacific island of Pohnpei, Micronesia. Though Prosek doesn't neglect the natural history of the eel, so little is known about its lifeways that he concentrates more on the symbolic powers of the giant freshwater eel. These accounts offer glimpses into the faith and traditions of frequently mysterious cultures, yet some Maoris and Pohnpeians recognized in the author a sympathetic soul, unlike those of the colonizing Europeans who nearly eradicated the Maori, as well as their eel as a icon. Prosek understands that in retelling these stories he offers only a glimmering of the eels' customary complexity and ambiguity, but he does well in interweaving the mythological and the personal. The author is also a diligent natural historian, keen to the greater landscape. He vividly evokes a bleached-white coral path reflecting the moonlight on Pohnpei, and an eel catcher on the Delaware River, "with his long beard, the hills of the Catskills and the rusty yellow foliage of the beech trees behind him...looked like an old Russian bush guide making his way up the Amur." Prosek provides plenty of fun facts, as well—the Borgias may have used eel-blood poison on their enemies, and "the astronomer Montanari believed that an eel's liver facilitated delivery in childbirth."
A warm, enrapturing paean to the totemic potency of eels.
The New York Times
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- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
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Meet the Author
James Prosek is twenty-seven and the author of four books. He is a graduate of Yale and published his first book, Trout, at the age of nineteen while a junior there. He lives in Easton, Connecticut.
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This book is largely a transcript and diary of how he collected the information to write about eels instead of a book on eels. Sentimental, badly written and poorly editted, dull, and with little scientific value.
When reading this you won't be able to put it down! A very readable mixture of science,cultural folklore, and plain human inquisitiveness in search of one nature's few catadromous fish. To quote the book,"The eel is timeless and vital, a metaphor for the resilience of life itself....If we lose those creatures that form the foundation of our spiritual system, if we lose those things that inspire us to be spiritual at all, then we will be lost." A must read for the nature lover in all of us.