Jonathan Raban's anthology The Oxford Book of the Sea is just that: a collection of writings about the sea--not about voyages or naval battles, or fishing or swimming, but rather passages that define the water itself. Open the book to any page and you'll find descriptions of the sea in all its infinite variability. Benjamin Franklin writes: "The water is now visibly changed.... Abundance of dolphins are about us...;" H.M. Tomlinson describes a storm thus: "In the early afternoon the waves had assumed serious proportions. They soared by us in broad, somber ranges, with hissing white ridges, an inhospitable and subduing sight." Even Jane Austen has something to say about the sea: "The terrific grandeur of the ocean in a storm, its glassy surface in a calm, its gulls and its samphire, and the deep fathoms of its abysses, its quick vicissitudes, its direful deceptions..." Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and John Milton are just a few of the contributors to this magnificent paean to the sea.
This is a book meant to be sampled and savored in small bites. Read a poem here, a letter there, an excerpt from David Copperfield or Rabbit at Rest, or a few lines from a diary entry. The collection spans nearly 1,000 years of the English-speaking world's experience of the sea; in all that time it has lost none of its power to enchant, inspire, and terrify. The Oxford Book of the Sea is a terrific read for seafarers and landlubbers alike.
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The Oxford Book of the Sea, edited by Jonathan Raban is one of the most romantic books I have read in a long time. Sunday Herald,Glasgow, 02/12/01 Review from previous edition 'this splendid anthology...so rich a mix...There is something here for everyone and that is as it should be.' Barry Unsworth, Sunday Telegraph