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The Penguin Book of the Ocean

“Water is a kind of destiny”
Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams

The Penguin Book of the Ocean is a major new collection of writing about the ocean and the many ways it has shaped the human imagination. The product of my lifelong fascination with the ocean and the marine environment, it brings together fiction, non-fiction, poetry and photography from artists, writers and explorers ranging from Hakluyt, Melville and Coleridge to more contemporary voices such as Tim Winton, James Hamilton-Paterson, Elizabeth Bishop and Rachel Carson.

As I say in the introduction:

“The ocean has been one of the wellsprings of the human imagination for almost as long as we have existed. Its presence suffuses us, haunts us, echoing through our language, through our shared reservoir of myth and metaphor. We even bear its memory in the matter of our bodies, not just in the salt of our blood and tears and the water that fills our cells, but in our very DNA, its memory of a time when all life inhabited the warm oceans of the primeval Earth. In its immensity we see an echo of our desire for transcendence, in its depths an echo of the vast and mysterious space of time, in its restlessness a reminder of the impermanence of all things, of the certainty of change and loss.

“. . . To understand the ocean, to glimpse its meaning is, in other words, to understand ourselves, and by extension our place in the larger order of things. As the philosopher Gaston Bachelard observes, ‘To disappear into deep water or to disappear toward a far horizon, to become part of depth of infinity, such is the destiny of man that finds its image in the destiny of water’. Or, in the words of Thomas Farber, ‘To name the qualities of even Earth’s oceans . . . reveals our hungers. Takes us to the limits of our capacities. And beyond’.”

I’ll link to posts about the collection as I publish them (thus far the only one of note is a piece about Hakluyt and Shackleton, ‘Of Penguin Worms and Hairy Water’), but in the meantime you can buy The Penguin Book of the Ocean at all good bricks and mortar bookstores or you can search for the best online deal at Booko.

And if you’d like to get a sense of the collection as a whole the introduction is available on Penguin Australia’s website, and I’ve posted a full list of the works included over the fold. Or you can visit the websites of contributors such as Wayne Levin, Jennifer Ackerman, Deborah Cramer, Thomas Farber, Emily Ballou, Luke Davies and Daniel Duane.

Alternatively you may wish to check out some of the Ocean and Nature-themed writing on this site, which includes pieces on Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, Wayne Levin’s Other Oceans, an essay about Great White Sharks and another about imagining sharks, and my piece ‘Beyond the Break’ about surfing and writing.

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