If you've read this blog for a while, or if you know me as a reader, you know that I have a little thing for author William Langewiesche.
It doesn't hurt that he's gorgeous. But mainly I love his writing. His writing to me is like the best fall day: Crisp, sharply detailed, and able to pack a lot in a small package (much like fall days are shorter than summer ones). Every time a new book of his comes out, I rush to read it, and I always learn something new. But here's a little secret: there are two books of his I haven't read: Inside the Sky, and The Outlaw Sea. I've been holding them in reserve, for a time when I really needed a "go-to" nonfiction title. This week, when I have been feeling uninspired by all other titles, I have been slowly making my way through The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime, savoring each chapter like one of those last, bright, lingering fall days before the snow flies.
In The Outlaw Sea Langewiesche describes the rule of law (or lack thereof) on the world's oceans. As per usual, he makes highly technical and possibly quite boring material come alive, and he describes ships and ocean navigation in such a way that even I, a dolt in all things technical and mechanical, understandable:
"Aboard the Kristal most of the repairs consisted of chipping with hammers and chisels at heavy rust that had spread like a cancer under the paint, across the main deck and through the hull. There have been reports, difficult to substantiate but entirely plausible, that considerable and illicit welding was also being performed, and that as a result, one of the cargo tanks could not be used--a restriction that may have caused the crew to load the molasses improperly, placing severe strains on the ship's structure. It seems unlikely that this could have occurred without at least the tacit approval of the ship's management company. Be that as it may, the crew certainly knew about the Kristal's precarious condition and were glad for their jobs nonetheless." (p. 10.)
It gets a lot more technical than that, particularly when he describes the sinking, in 1994, of a passenger ferry ship, the Estonia, in the Baltic Sea. (A tragedy, and its investigation, that makes up a good chunk of the narrative.) But he's packed a lot in that paragraph, and he's made it easy to read. The whole book has been like that so far.
I'm not done with it, because I'm reading it slowly to savor. Wonderful. A tragic book but a good one to sink my teeth into as we enter beautiful, cool, and over all-too-quickly fall.