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A sleek hunter of the seas, the shark has struck fear into the hearts of men since the days of the first fishermen. Dean Crawford now explores here the long relationship between shark and man, revealing that behind the fearsome caricature is a complex animal that deserves a thoughtful reconsideration.
With a lineage stretching back over 100 million years, the shark has evolved into 350 different species, from the great white to the pike-bearing goblin to the tiny cookie-cutter. Crawford compiles here a fascinating narrative that analyzes how and why the animal looms large in our cultural psyche. While sharks have played a prominent part in religion and mythology, they are more commonly perceived as deadly predators—in such films as Jaws and Dr. No—or as symbols of natural violence, as in Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream. Shark ultimately argues, however, that our ill-informed emotional responses, spurred by such representations, have encouraged the wholesale slaughter of sharks—and our ignorance endangers the very existence of the shark today.
Both a celebration of their lethal beauty and plea for their conservation, Shark urges us to shed our fears and appreciate the magnificence of this majestic animal.
"Crawford explains well the variety (454 species) and wondrous biology of sharks (the great white has electrical sensors that can detect a heartbeat); traces sharks nicely through myth and fiction, holding in view Moby-Dick, Jaws and the novels of Hemingway; and outlines the politics of aquaria and shark-fin soup. . . . The pictures are breathtaking, too."
"Shark is a completely perfect book about sharks — ogle that elegant cover and unadorned title, both as sleek as their subject — limpidly written by Dean Crawford and speckled with striking photos and artwork."--Chris Garcia, Austin 360
"A beautiful book about sharks? Yes, Shark, by Dean Crawford is one of a series of gorgeous, small format animal tomes by British publisher Reaktion Books. This 150-page shark primer has lovely color plates on almost every page of art-quality stock, and the writing is good, too. . . Crawford's the Alan Dershowitz of the finny deep. I loved this book."--Alex Beam, Boston Globe
1 A Timeless Design 21
2 Deities and Demons 47
3 Our Sensational Imaginations 70
4 Unscrupulous Lawyers and Other Predators 98
5 No Adventure in the Fin Trade 115
6 Useful in a Deeper Sense 133
Associations and Websites 165
Photo Acknowledgments 173
Posted September 15, 2008
SHARK is an encyclopedic study of a fascinating animal. Dean Crawford is a tireless (and, evidently, fearless) researcher as well as an elegant writer, and he has written a book that should delight anyone interested in animals in general or in the survival of species essential for the survival of our own. This book taught me a great deal about sharks, about their amazing variety, about their extraordinary longevity. Sharks were old before the first dinosaur was a twinkle in nature's eye. In the world of the survival of the fittest, they are just that. But that's only the beginning of what I took away from this book. Besides its virtues as a readable biological study, SHARK is also an incisive examination of how humans demonize other species. One work of fiction and a handful of incidents so rare as to flirt with freakishness have created an apparition: a monster, a killing machine. Statistics don't bear this hallucination out. Through another source I have learned that I am more likely to be killed by a blue jay than I am by a shark. The difference is that no one yet written a best-selling book or movie called BEAK. The equivalent book about sharks (JAWS), it seems, generated much more than sales. It managed to create a new species, one that terrifies the imagination even though its connections to reality are tenuous at best. In the end Crawford is a conservationist as well as a scholar. His arguments for some limits on the current slaughter of sharks or all shapes and kinds (largely for their fins) are compelling. As is usually the case, the extermination of a species often has appalling ramifications for other species, and that includes Homo Sapiens. Of course, arguing for the preservation of sharks is a bit harder than arguing, for instance, for the preservation of Bambi. One might start the comparison by with noting the apparent non-cuddlability of sharks and then move on to the question of teeth. Read SHARK, however, and you will find that JAWS distorts reality at least as much as BAMBI does. Neither comes within shouting distance of the truth. If BAMBI has done no harm to the species it tries to represent, that is not the case with JAWS. Once you have read Crawford's book, you will be left with a choice: whether it is better to found your opinions on a piece of pulp fiction or, on the other hand, on the facts. Peter Grudin Stamford, VTWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.