- Taschenbuch: 336 Seiten
- Verlag: Vintage; Auflage: New Ed (5. April 2007)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 0099477599
- ISBN-13: 978-0099477594
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13 x 2,1 x 19,9 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: Schreiben Sie die erste Bewertung
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 1.033.239 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
The Big Oyster: A Molluscular History of New York (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 5. April 2007
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"Kurlansky's great ability is to chose a single element as a prism through which to view the development or degeneration of culture; in this book he takes his readers from the 16th century to the present day, encompassing biology, commerce, the politics of race, history, literature, and, of course, gourmandise" (Erica Wagner The Times)
"A diligent researcher and a terrific storyteller...quirky, engrossing narrative" (Jackie McGlone Herald)
"A unique perspective" (Killian Fox Observer)
"Fascinating... Kurlansky's portrait of that vanished age is absolutely engrossing" (Philip Hoare Sunday Telegraph)
"Packed with interest" (Independent)
From the bestselling author of Salt and Cod comes a fascinating history of New York and the oyster - its influence on four centuries of cultural, economic, and culinary trends - with recipes throughoutAlle Produktbeschreibungen
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Although the title and cover suggest that the book is about oysters, it's actually a history of New York city--the choices and, in particular, the (hindsight-only) mistakes in handling the environment that transformed Manhattan island and its surroundings from pastoral beauty to modern Gotham. Today, New York is the very totem, the very image of "city". This is how it got that way--through the eyes of the oyster.
As a book, it's an interesting read. Kurlansky's scholarship and research are excellent and we get telling anecdotes and solid detail throughout. The titular bivalve, though, sometimes goes missing from sections or has only a peripheral connection to much of the text. At the end the author notes that the book was adapted from Sunday supplement articles and it feels stretched. That's too bad, because it's still a good read and a pleasant diversion. (Don't think I'll try the 17th Century oyster recipes though...)
Who would have thought that a writer could fill 280 pages of prose related to this delectable bivalve? Well, the answer is that while the author does tell much about the oyster there are many oysterless pages in evidence, somewhat stretched out by accompanying recipes. "The Big Oyster" is a book that is often in search of itself. It occasionally gets sidetracked in telling about the growth of New York, resulting in the unfortunate oyster sometimes getting pushed off to the side. However, Kurlansky is at his best when he gives reference to Oyster houses, floating wharves and markets and how the oyster became such a staple of both rich and poor. The demise of the New York City oyster beds (the last one closed in 1927) may be a depressing thought for most readers but Kurlansky heartens us by his providing readers with evidence that the waters around New York are cleaner now and that the oyster may one day return.
Kurlansky is terrific at explaining the anatomy of an oyster and how it lives. I didn't know that the oyster is the only mollusk that doesn't move around.... once it attaches itself to an object it remains there for the rest of its life. He's also very good at tidbits of trivia. I hadn't realized that for most of the nineteenth century the Hudson River was know as the "North River". These small "eye-openers" give the book lots of color.
"The Big Oyster", as well as its predecessors, are enjoyable books about subjects one might otherwise not think about reading. Had the author not jumped around so much and kept the focus on his bivalve, he would have had a more streamlined book. Still, "The Big Oyster" is worth the read. I wonder if Kurlansky is already dreaming up a book on the history of caviar....
Why doesn't it get more than three stars? Too many mistakes. Some are little, quibbling mistakes, like his claim that the word "ecology" was not in use in 1891; Ernst Haeckel coined the term in 1869, and it was in widespread scientific use by the end of the 19th C. Others are more significant mistakes, like attributing invention of the telegraph to "Samuel T. Morse," and giving the same Morse credit for sending the first transatlantic telegram from Delmonico's in 1861. The telegraph, as most third-graders used to know, was invented by Samuel F. B. Morse. (Googling "Samuel T. Morse" produces only a reference to a 2001 lawsuit, filed in New Hampshire by the estate of one S.T. Morse, regarding some allegedly shoddy construction.) And the first transatlantic telegram was sent in 1858, not 1861, by Queen Victoria, not Samuel (F.B. or T.) Morse. The second, more successful transatlantic telegraph was constructed in 1866.
The worst mistake, however, is using the phrase "it was only a theory" when writing about Pasteur's work. To say that an idea is "only a theory" raises all sorts of red flags to scientists, indicating that the writer's grasp of the scientific method is perhaps somewhat tenuous. By the 1880s the germ theory was just that: a well-tested, widely-accepted explanation of the cause of disease.
"The Big Oyster" is, like Kurlansky's other works, well-written and easy to read. One might wish, however, that his research was a little better this time. It makes the observant reader wonder what other mistakes the book might contain.
I learned bunches from Mark's book. I was able to justify a long held stance about storing oysters in the face of superstition from my twenty-something rock-star staff.
I owned a restaurant in Telluride, Colorado back in the 70's. We dug around in the basement and found menus from the 1890's that featured fresh New York City oysters.....long before refrigeration. The book reveals how this worked, and consequently saved me a few hundred dollars every week. Five stars indeed1
Meanwhile, Mark gives an in-depth sociological, geographic and gastronomical account of how the oyster affected life in New York and America. In many ways the oyster is the canary in the coal mine of our inland waterways. If the oyster is happy with the water....you are probably OK with the water. No oyster.....don't even think about jumping in. Oysters kept New York City harbor water clean for millenia....until overwhelmed by chemical pollution.
Just this morning I picked up Mother Jones, and read an article about the largest oil spill in American history: in Newtown Creek between Queens and Brooklyn. Having read Mark's book....I already knew the history of Newtown Creek...once the source of millions of oysters and the support of an entire social structure.
Oysters had started a comeback there in 1997. Ooops. Back to the drawing board.
Buy the book. Learn something.