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The Last Fish Tale Paperback – May 5, 2009

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bestselling author Kurlansky (Cod; The Big Oyster) provides a delightful, intimate history and contemporary portrait of the quintessential northeastern coastal fishing town: Gloucester, Mass., on Cape Anne. Illustrated with his own beautifully executed drawings, Kurlansky's book vividly depicts the contemporary tension between the traditional fishing trade and modern commerce, which in Gloucester means beach-going tourists. One year ago, a beach preservation group enraged fishermen by seeking to harvest 105 acres of prime fishing ground for sand to deposit on the shoreline. Wealthy yacht owners compete with fishermen for prime dockage, driving up prices. Fishermen also contend with federal limits on their catches in an effort to maintain sustainable fisheries. But while cod are protected from extinction, the fishermen are not. Some boats must go 100 or more miles out to sea—a danger for small boats with few crew members. Tragedies abound, while one, that of the swordfish boat Andrea Gail, documented by Sebastian Junger in A Perfect Storm, brought even more tourists to Gloucester. (June 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"A heartfelt beautifully-written as the fondest and best-crafted eulogy."
-Boston Globe

"A colorful history of, varied, and satisfying, just like a good chowder."
-Entertainment Weekly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594483744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483745
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Kurlansky is a New York Times bestselling and James A. Beard Award-winning author. He is the recipient of a Bon Appétit American Food and Entertaining Award for Food Writer of the Year, and the Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award for Food Book of the year.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Valentine on June 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I read the book, and as I sit here writing this review, my windows are open to the sea air and the shouts and cheers of crowds on Pavillion Beach as they watch the Greasy Pole Competition here in Gloucester, the competition that Mark Kurlansky writes about in the opening chapter of "The Last Fish Tale". "Viva San Pietro!" The cry goes up over and over. "Hooray for Saint Peter!" But these days the local fishermen here need more help from St. Peter to keep their way of life alive than to save them from dangers of the sea.

With his usual wit, elegance, and deep intelligence, Kurlansky has crafted a book that is fascinating on many levels. He begins his tale with an early history of Gloucester, including how the town got its name, and moves gracefully through the centuries salting his story with anecdotes about people that may seem like colorful characters to most readers but are friends and neighbors to me. Kurlansky talks about "Gloucester Stories". Those stories abound and flourish --- stories about fishermen and artists and writers and inventors --- each with their own particular perspective on America's Oldest Seaport. I came to Gloucester some 15 years ago because I was writing a book steeped in the maritime history of the Great Lakes (The Old Mermaid's Tale). I fell in love with a Gloucester fisherman and am still here. That is my Gloucester Story. It could be the same for many of the people Kurlansky tells of, the fishermen who came from Sicily in search of a better life, the artists who came because of the beautiful light, the writers who came because of the peace of the sea.
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Format: Hardcover
Walking the fine line between those who want to preserve the renowned fishing industry of Gloucester, Massachusetts, long into the future and those who see that industry as already nearly dead, NY Times reporter Mark Kurlansky examines the history of the community, its ties to the sea, and its very uncertain economic future. At the same time, he also worries about the future of the Atlantic Ocean itself as a resource, one now so endangered that unless the federal government institutes "overall eco-system management," and not just quotas on specific catches, it will soon die. The government has wasted too much time on short-term "remedies," he believes, and has done no comprehensive long-term planning for the eco-system on which the industry depends. Ultimately, the "scientists" responsible for the health of our ocean have made too many mistakes, and fishermen in Gloucester and elsewhere are paying the price.

Kurlansky describes Gloucester (pronounced "GLOSS-ter") from its earliest discoveries by the Vikings to its first settlements, emphasizing its colonial fishing industry, a time in which people would routinely catch cod that were four or five feet long and halibut weighing 200 - 400 pounds. Between colonial times and 1991, when the unexpected Perfect Storm struck, the city has lost six thousand Gloucester fishermen and many hundreds of vessels at sea, yet the fishing industry persists.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Bell on July 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone with a passion for coastal United States will appreciate Mark Kurlansky's portrait of Gloucester. He captures the essence of Gloucester and at the same time the challenges of its fishing community. While most news journalists simply write off this great working port, Kurlansky leaves us with an appreciation of not only Gloucester's robust past but its link to today. The Last Fish Tale is tough to put down once you start.The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America's Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on July 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author, in writing about the history of Gloucester, captures the feel of the city and its inhabitants well. Beginning with the discovery of the town, and progressing through the history, the author demonstrates well some of the ups and downs that have occurred in Cape Ann over the past several centuries.

From the history of the city, the author slips gently into the reasons that fish stocks are declining and discusses the animosity found between government regulators and the people who earn a living fishing. While not detailed, it does present an easy to understand look at the problems associated with fish stock management.

In addition, the book compares similar towns in other countries to allow the reader to realize that this is not a problem that exists strictly within the northeast portion of the US or with a single port. He also examines the effect of tourism on the towns and the problems tourism can create in working fishing villages.

This book is a good general look at the history of Gloucester, as well as fish depletion. It is a recommended read to anyone who is interested in the life style in a fishing community as well as how the fishing industry is in trouble.

For people who are interested in more detail on the plight of the New England fish stocks, and the views of both government regulators and the fishermen, I would highly recommend "The Great Gulf: Fishermen, Scientists, and the Struggle to Revive the World's Greatest Fishery by David Dobbs. It is a detailed look at the problems from both sides and goes into detail on the subject.
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