WOODEN BOATS: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard
Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) provides an insightful look at the life and work of legendary master boatbuilders Nat Benjamin and Ross Gannon, whose boatyard on Martha's Vineyard is the site of the most innovative work happening today. Ruhlman tells the men's stories through the boats that they construct, so a long chapter on building the 65-foot-long schooner Rebecca for a newly boat-struck buyer turns into an exploration of the unique connection between the rich people who buy boats and the working-class people who make them, as well as the slow and detailed work that goes into building a boat by hand. Ruhlman's discovery of the "extraordinary integrity" of Benjamin and Gannon's work, as well as "a parallel integrity in these boatwrights' lives," becomes "urgently important" to him "because this work and this kind of person [are] vanishing from our midst." Ruhlman is "not afraid to claim that the wooden boat is both ancient and great, that it connects us to the life that has gone before and that it's fully worthy of a life engaged in its construction." His ability to simply tell the boatbuilders story, making connections between boats and life, gives this sharply observed book its pleasures. (May)
Forecast:Ruhlman, who has written extensively for the New York Times, should garner some attention, especially given the acclaim of his previous book and his author tour. The book's attention to manual labor, craft and the lives of men should interest readers of the more intelligent men's magazines.