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This is a thoughtful and revealing portrait of symbiotic friendship, a suspenseful tale of adventure at sea, and a eulogy to a trailblazing "popular scientist" whose full story has never before been told. In the 1930s, while the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression sent most of America into the doldrums, a lively intellectual and artistic community formed in the West, revolving around three legendary friends: Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck, and Joseph Campbell. Steinbeck immortalized Monterey's bohemian spirit in Cannery Row, but the area's true lifeblood was his best friend and mentor, Ed Ricketts. Today he's usually remembered as "Doc" — the beer-drinking philosopher-scientist who presides over Monterey's population of "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches" in Cannery Row — but Ricketts was actually a highly accomplished ecologist who did seminal work in the emerging field of marine biology. His two books, Between Pacific Tides and Sea of Cortez (coauthored with Steinbeck), are still considered classics.
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Eric Enno Tamm holds an MA in print journalism from USC and has written for numerous publications, including Wallpaper* and the Globe and Mail. He works at a conservation group based in Vancouver, Canada.From Publishers Weekly:
It's quite likely that even the most enthusiastic readers of Cannery Row don't know much about Ed Ricketts, the self-taught marine biologist depicted in John Steinbeck's novel as "Doc"—a beer-guzzling bohemian science-philosopher presiding genially over the coastal California town's seedy sardine-packing population of "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches." Tamm's account of Ricketts's short life (he died in 1948, at age 51, killed while crossing train tracks) is an engrossing memoir. Freelance writer Tamm smartly weaves in-depth literary analysis of Steinbeck's fiction into his narrative, though writing relatively little about mythologist Joseph Campbell's spiritual explorations. But the links drawn among the three friends (though Steinbeck and Campbell soon had a lifelong falling out around marital infidelity) provide a fascinating insight into how art, science and philosophy can nurture, inspire and feed off one another. Tamm writes with impassioned honesty about his subject's many dimensions. Ricketts was a beach bum, philanderer and party-hearty hedonist, but he was also an intuitive ecologist, whose early warnings about sardine over-fishing along the California and Alaskan coasts in the 1930s proved prescient; an environmental visionary, whose dire observations about the impact of industrial effluvia on shoreline habitats in the 1940s went unheeded; and a true renaissance man, whose avant-garde fusion of life and science inspired the lives he touched.
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