BEYOND THE OUTER SHORES: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell

Eric Enno Tamm, Author . Four Walls Eight Windows $26 (365p) ISBN 978-1-56858-298-6

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. Agent, Amy Rennert. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 365 pages - 978-1-56025-689-2
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