Saturday, November 26, 2011

A slipcased sea

With the exception of a year in the Midwest, I've spent all of my adulthood living at most a few miles from a coast. Yet even when I could hear the Atlantic's staticky, nor'easterly roar from my bedroom window in New Jersey or now, when on clear days in San Francisco I can see the Pacific from the roof of my building, I've always wanted a tangible object to keep close by.

We all know people who collect shells or stones or driftwood. (I remember very distinctly my grandmother's homemade shell-filled lamp.) I'm a book person, so it's perhaps unsurprising that I've always desired to have the sea between the pages of a book.

Until now, though, I've never acted on that desire, maybe because I felt caught between the atavism and the consumerism of the impulse (as if any object, especially a photograph, can properly capture The Sea), or because I've never quite found the perfect book, despite there being no shortage of such collections. Besides, let's face it, there is also a lot of sentimentality about the sea; romance as well, but rarely romance that doesn't devolve into hackneyed phrases and imagery.

This book, though. This is the one. It's full of romance that steers clear of the dangerous shoals of sentimentality; it's got grandeur and shipwrecks and symbolism; it evokes the real sublimity and ordinariness of of the sea, while managing to permit it its dream quality. It's also got a slipcase. (A slipcase, I say!)

Francis Mortimer, The Wreck (1911)

Adolf Fassbender, Crashing Wave (c. 1930)

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Black Sea, Ozuluce (1991)

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