- Reading level: 18+ years
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised ed. edition (1 November 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140187448
- ISBN-13: 978-0140187441
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,21,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Log from the Sea of Cortez (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 1 Nov 1995
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About the Author
John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book won't be for everyone. The reader must be patient with the author, who mixes science and travel story and philosophy at his own pace. The travelogue portions are a time capsule of often wry observations of Baja California as it was at the time. Chapter 14 contains Steinbeck's and likely Ricketts' thoughts on a universe that is, rather than ought to be. An extended appendix contains Steinbeck's moving requiem for his longtime friend, who inspired several characters in Steinbeck's novels over the years. Recommended to Steinbeck's fans, who may find his non-fiction not so far removed from his fiction.
Before her expedition embarked, I gave to her my treasured copy of this book,
and this is what she had to say:
"Day 14 at Sea.
"After spending a good week of troubleshooting, rebuilding arrays,
breaking them, re-fixing them, dealing with conflicting egos
(including my own), switching wires, and dealing with the
unfamiliarity of sea-sickness (due in two parts to my cold and the
magnificent roll of this ship), I have finally finished Sea of Cortez.
While it's fresh in my mind, I thought I'd jot down my thoughts to
send your way. This is going to be more of a letter than a note, as
the mood has struck me. Sans cigarette, however. I do not favor the
idea of clinging to my laptop on deck, protecting it from the
"Also, holy crap, has it really only been two weeks?
"SUCH a romantic story, from start to appendix. This idea that even
post Depression Era people could scrap together enough savings to
afford such a lavish, albeit business, adventure. I think of the
modern day scramble to get grants, itemized so precisely, spent only
on what you thought you may need six month prior. I far prefer the
notion of pooling together funds until one can afford to hire or buy
the required equipment, sketching out the necessities and desired
goods as you go. I took to reading this book during my breaks up on
the flying bridge, wind and sea around me. Reading this book at sea
was a good idea, though I was frequently interrupted by visual
observers passing by and asking me what part I was up to. Many of
them harbored a great fondness for the book.
"The passage about the futility of hope and how it weakens us as a
species set the whole tone of the book for me. We have hope, and
therefore we are disillusioned. I imaged the different outlook on
life high school graduates may have if that paragraph was recited to
them at graduation, instead of the usual spiel about how special they
all are. It shouldn't be read in a negative way, as that's not how
it's written. But in a matter-of-fact way, that this is an obstacle
in life which one must acknowledge if they are going to be satisfied
with whatever the end up setting their minds to.
"The descriptions of the towns along the peninsula made me sore for
travel. Though I am certainly on a current adventure, I love traveling
to new places and walking around, getting a feel for the people (as
well as their beer and coffee). This book, however, also sets you
back in time to villages that likely do not exist in the same manner
anymore. They mention how either La Paz or Loreto was in the middle
of constructing a hotel-like building that would bring floods of
weekenders from LA and elsewhere, and how sick that makes them. How
sick would they be now with the modern "Floridaization" of sea side
Mexico. I'd love to take a road trip down, compare and contrast their
experience (albeit through the lens of stylized storytelling) with the
current reality (of course through my own lens, as that's the only
reality I can know).
"The bit about the Japanese shrimping fleet broke my heart a bit,
because the authors were spot on. The Gulf of California fishing
industry is a shell of what it could have been mostly thanks to gill
netting and those huge bottom trawlers that destroyed everything in
their path. The fact that this was evident 60 years ago to people of
an academic mind and no protective actions were taken gives me little
faith in our ability to save anything now. The Vaquita, the smallest
porpoise in the world, which lives exclusively in the northern region
of the Gulf, is quickly being exterminated by a barely profitable gill
netting industry. The extinction of a species can be avoided if people
just fished a different way. There is such a wall against doing
things the right way rather than the first way we happened to stumble
upon. I have heard fisherman say "God will always make sure there is
enough fish in the sea." *facepalm* Because the bible never says
anything about an angry and vengeful god testing his people to live
within their means.
"Speaking of God, I enjoy the idea of such an entity being expressed as
a mathematical symbol for an expanding universe. As a non-believer,
that notion suits me.
"What also broke my heart is the amount of animals they killed. Not
just the ones they took (and as they often repeated 'a great many of
them'), some they just mortally wounded. Then they head out on a
hunting trip and repeat frequently how they don't like killing things,
they only do it when necessary. People used to have such a causal
attitude towards killing things, like the cats which may or may not
have been pets. I don't have a strong objection to killing for the
sake of the animal. As we have previously discussed, once its dead it
doesn't know the difference. Life is only as precious as the pedestal
we place it on. But that poor shark they left to suffocate on their
deck, that's a horrible death. I also understand that most for most
people, to properly study biology you have to sacrifice the animal you
work with. That isn't a reality for me. Not because I don't have the
stomach for it, but because that isn't the nature of my work. But when
I was killing fish on a regular basis, you at least try to only kill
the ones you need, rather than killing as many samples as possible to
the point of not having enough collection jars to hold them. It's
superfluous. If something can live, let it live. If the purpose of
their expedition was to go tide pooling, why did they need to harpoon
a great manta ray? Mantas don't make a regular practice of checking
out tide pools, as far as I am aware.
"It's an older way of thinking. An older methodology. One of the
reasons the Ivory-billed Woodpecker went extinct was because
naturalists found out they were disappearing, and then promptly went
out and killed as many as possible to preserve specimens. I don't
think we, the biological community, are that out of touch now. Or at
least, I hope not.
"There were some other notes about the old-fashion-ness of this story,
but I fear this letter is too long, and I don't want to bore you. All
of these thoughts are just at the front of my mind, and the more I
type the more I remember. I'll end with Steinbeck's attempt to "lay
the ghost" of Ed Ricketts, which is just as sweet as you had promised.
His snapshot of the man he knew, as beautiful as it was, does not rid
him from the loss of his late friend. This was a bittersweet moment
for me, as it rang true for my own losses. Memories of them still
tingle with every day occurrences, mostly unexpected. Reading that
Steinbeck still carried the ghost of Ed Ricketts brought both comfort
"I suppose it'll always be confusing. So I will leave it for now.
"I hope all is well with you. :)