Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

4.0 5
by James Prosek
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

“This is a delightful work with the urgency of a good detective story.” —Thomas McGuane

“I loved it! A beautiful adventure story of one of the most wide-spread and least-known but ecologically important fish.” —Bernd Heinrich, author of Summer World

Famous for his deeply informed, compulsively readable books on

…  See more details below

Overview

“This is a delightful work with the urgency of a good detective story.” —Thomas McGuane

“I loved it! A beautiful adventure story of one of the most wide-spread and least-known but ecologically important fish.” —Bernd Heinrich, author of Summer World

Famous for his deeply informed, compulsively readable books on trout, writer-painter James Prosek (whom the New York Times has called “the Audubon of the fishing world”) takes on nature’s quirkiest and most enigmatic fish: the eel. Fans of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and The Big Oyster or Trevor Corson’s The Secret Life of Lobsters will love Prosek’s probing exploration of the hidden deep-water dwellers. With characteristically captivating prose and lavish illustrations, Prosek demystifies the eel’s unique biology and bizarre mating routines, and illuminates the animal’s varied roles in the folklore, cuisine, and commerce of a variety of cultures.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
“Prosek has a talent for observation. . . . He finds the beauty in things, the hook, the reason why they get to us, why they lodge in our subconscious. . . . Yes, it’s a book about eels — but it’s the stuff of dreams, and it’s all true.”
The Economist
“A comprehensive and appreciative study of one of the world’s most mysterious creatures. . . . [Prosek] has collected anguilline myths, lore and recipes from all over the world”
New Scientist
“Enthralling. . . . The eel’s story is remarkable, and so are Prosek’s tales of eel people.”
Booklist
“The tale of Ray Turner, a man who still fishes for eels the traditional way with a hand-built weir, is at the heart of the book, tying the mythology, the mystery, and the commerce of eels together into his story.”
New York Times Book Review
Eels [is] more than a fish book. It is an impassioned defense of nature itself... In Eels, he passes on the truth that the often disdained eel, like all migratory fish, is vital and mysterious and worthy of our full effort to bring it back.”
Washington Post
“Entertaining. . . . Prosek’s writing is fluid and relaxed”
Peter Matthiessen
“A wonderful account of far-flung travels in pursuit of the secrets of the earth’s most mysterious fish. . . . Fascinating and beautifully rendered.”
Thomas McGuane
“This is a delightful work with the urgency of a good detective story.”
Bernd Heinrich
“I loved it! A beautiful adventure story of one of the most wide-spread and least-known but ecologically important fish.”
Paul Greenberg
Prosek has made his reputation as a kind of underwater Audubon. His trout watercolors…bear those particular, exciting hues that still-living fish possess…As Eels demonstrates, Prosek is every bit as good a writer as a painter. Perhaps this is because both his art and writing draw their inspiration from a similar challenge: to express the ineffable, fading aspect of the natural world in the industrialized era, the feeling of bright colors slipping through your fingers. It is this quality that makes Eels much more than a fish book. It is an impassioned defense of nature itself, rescued from the tired rhetoric of 1970s-style environmentalism by good, honest shoe-leather reporting.
—The New York Times
Mark Berman
If you consider the eel only when you're ordering in a sushi joint, you might not think the creature warrants an entire book. James Prosek's breezy and entertaining Eels, devoted to the slimy, snake-like freshwater fish that spawns in the ocean, proves otherwise. It's less an exhaustive scientific examination than part travelogue, part cultural examination and part scientific exploration…Prosek's writing is fluid and relaxed, exploring how different people approach eels rather than overwhelming us with data or recipes.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Ask your average North American: eels, those slimy snakelike creatures, are generally held in poor regard. For nature writer Prosek (Trout; Fly-Fishing the 41st), however, they are a compelling mystery, and in his riveting synthesis of cultural, geographical, and botanical sleuthing, he investigates their reputation at home and abroad. The author--for whom the eel was once merely bait for bass--delves into the closely held traditions of the Maori of New Zealand, where eels are revered; into the beliefs of the Micronesian island of Pohnpei, where eels are considered members of a tribal clan; into the heart of the largest seafood market in the world, in Japan, a nation that consumes more than 130,000 tons of eels each year; into the reclusive world of Eel Weir Hollow in the Catskills, where fisherman Ray traps and smokes as much as one ton of eels a season; and to the fabled Sargasso Sea, where eels are thought to start their trek to the world's lakes, rivers, and streams--though, even now, no one knows precisely where the world's population of eels spawns, an enduring scientific mystery awaiting a solution. (Nov..)
Kirkus Reviews

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.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060566128
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
1,175,318
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.72(d)

What People are saying about this

Bernd Heinrich
I loved it! A beautiful adventure story of one of the most wide-spread and least-known but ecologically important fish.—Bernd Heinrich, author of Summer World
Thomas McGuane
This is a delightful work with the urgency of a good detective story.—Thomas McGuane
Peter Matthiessen
“A wonderful account of far-flung travels in pursuit of the secrets of the earth’s most mysterious fish. . . . Fascinating and beautifully rendered.”

Meet the Author

James Prosek is a writer and artist. Dubbed “the Audubon of the fishing world” by the New York Times, his books include Trout, The Complete Angler, and Fly-Fishing the 41st. He lives in Easton, Connecticut.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >