Guest Review: Blood, Bones, and Butter
Tuesday Article: Still more Diana Athill.

Your daily Langewiesche.

I continue to be unsettled in my nonfiction reading, and reading in general. For some reason I am just a bit tired lately--which means I've been reading things like Agatha Christie books. Nothing really to blog about there.

So it's mainly an update today. I did finish William Langewiesche's The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime, and liked it even more as I went on. The last segment in the book, on the shipbreaking industry in India (literally: they run old ships aground and then people tear them apart, manually, for the scrap steel), is nothing short of fantastic. What I really like about Langewiesche is how he doesn't really insert himself in the story, but you do get a feeling for how fascinated he is by his subjects. I envy that, kind of. Imagine being engrossed in something and being able to investigate and write about it for your job. Imagine being able to write this kind of prose:

"I went down to the ship when I could, past the ground crews who by now had grown used to my presence. At the torn bow, I climbed through the broken bilge into the huge forward cargo hold, now open to the sky. The ship was mine to wander--up precarious ladders to the main deck high above, through passageways and equipment rooms where the peeling paint and rusted steel gave evidence of the years of wandering and hard use, and ultimately of neglect. Nonetheless, I felt a sort of awe, and was never in a hurry to leave...

The workers did not seem to mind my presence, or even to wonder about it. They appeared sometimes like ghosts, moving fast and in file without speaking. They were very dirty. They were very poor. But they lacked the look of death that I had seen on the men in the Bhavnagar rerolling mill. They were purposeful. Toward the stern, where sunlight streamed through rough-cut ventilation holes and struck the oil-blackened walls, the towering engine room had the Gothic beauty of a cathedral--a monument to the forces of a new world." (pp. 238-239.)