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The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions Paperback – March 16, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (March 16, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812693965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812693966
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,471,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Cox dissects the actions of Bruce Ismay, director of the White Star Line, which built and maintained the Titanic, on the fateful night of its sinking. The image of Ismay climbing into a lifeboat and rowing away with his back to the sinking vessel is just one of the lasting, eerie memories portrayed here. Cox has taken the court testimony of passengers, sailors, even a ship's cook, and helped put a human face on the survivors of the wreck; unfortunately, some of those faces would be distasteful to look at, considering the actions of their owners. Cox regales us with tales of the lifeboats and the human struggle going on aboard as some payoffs were made and some boats skedaddled from the site of the sinking ship with all due speed, while many floundered about in the freezing water. Cox has the necessary scorn for Ismay and others whose actions were less than heroic, and his critic's approach to the affair reveals that the event truly did change people's lives. Joe Collins

Review

A stellar blend of analysis and primary source material: good for both recreational reading and history studies. -- Booklist YA, 4/1/99

At a time when the popular media's distortion of the Titanic's story reaches its zenith, this persuasive clarification and debunking of public misconceptions is particularly welcome; it must form an essential part of any Titanic student's library. -- Philip Armstrong, Secretary of the Ulster Titanic Society

In 87 years the story of the Titanic has been reduced to slogans and soap opera. The Titanic, we are told, was doomed from the start by arrogant certainty in technology and progress. It was a time when rich people got out and let the poor sink.

Stephen Cox, professor of literature and director of the Humanities Program at the University of California at San Diego, argues modern moviemakers have radically simplified the Titanic story and essentially falsified it.

The lessons drawn from the Titanic are more debatable than they are made out to be today, Cox writes, and in any case are not what makes the story the cultural icon it has become. We remember the Titanic because it was a morality play. Ordinary people were forced to make "lifeboat" choices usually left to college philosophy classes. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/17/99

There are more comprehensive treatments of the Titanic than this book, but none that better conveys why we should care how a couple thousand people spent two hours in the middle of one hellish night in the North Atlantic eighty-seven years ago. -- The Weekly Standard, 5/31/99

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
The most remarkable thing about this remarkable book is that, after all that has been written about the Titanic, someone has contributed a fresh perspective. Author Stephen Cox quiets the cacophony of finger-pointing moralizers, who so confidently distinguish heroes from villains in this tragedy, with his careful and thoughtful analysis of the ethical paradoxes associated with the event. This impartial treatment and the annotated bibliography are worth the price of admission. But the real treat is the drama of the Titanic Story. Intertwined with the factual descriptions are excerpts from exciting eyewitness testimonies, taken primarily from the American and British inquiries after the disaster. Add to these the fascinating and poignant photographs of the people whose lives were destroyed by the Titanic, and you have a hell of a read. You will enjoy this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
The most remarkable thing about this remarkable book is that, after all that has been written about the Titanic, someone has contributed a fresh perspective. Author Stephen Cox quiets the cacophony of finger-pointing moralizers, who so confidently distinguish heroes from villains in this tragedy, with his careful and thoughtful analysis of the ethical paradoxes associated with the event. This impartial treatment and the annotated bibliography are worth the price of admission. But the real treat is the drama of the Titanic Story. Intertwined with the factual descriptions are the excerpts from exciting eyewitness testimonies, taken primarily from the American and British inquiries after the disaster. Add to these the fascinating and poignant photographs of the people whose lives were destroyed by the Titanic, and you have a hell of a read. You will enjoy this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By himichael on May 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the best revisiting of the facts that you can buy. However, I fully expected to see a lot of bad reviews here because of the book's originality. Independent research and independent thinking have led the book's author to some controversial conclusions. If you read this with an open, critical mind, some little thought bubbles full of Titanic preconceptions will burst.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Garrick Thorpe on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Titanic Story is a slender book, the kind that offers entree to the field at the cost of a single Sunday afternoon, but it -- like the story itself -- is "inexhaustible," and merits more than one reading. It has something to offer everyone interested in the story of the Titanic, whatever their familiarity with the facts.

Everyone knows how the maiden voyage of the Titanic ended. It's so much a part of cultural literacy, Cox argues, that the real essence of the story -- the people who were involved and their complex choices -- has been lost. The Titanic Story offers an alternative interpretation of the event, courageously treating the victims of the disaster as people instead of moral archetypes, and showing how they, as individuals, were subject to the timeless challenges of being human.

His argument is compelling. After reading the Titanic Story, one is likely to agree with Cox that the Titanic disaster not only deserves, but in fact needs, to be apprehended as a complex human drama. Viewing it this way re-establishes the individuality of the victims, and draws them off the drab, flat canvas that popular history has confined them to. Cox reminds us, through judiciously selected stories and interviews, that the choices of passengers and crew aboard the sinking Titanic were the result of difficult, mostly impromptu balances of facts, and that even apt foresight isn't always enough to avoid a moral (or literal) disaster.

The Titanic Story is also easy to read, and it has a friendly, discursive tone that's a lot like listening to an unassuming person talk about a matter in which he is well-informed and thoughtful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
The correct title is "The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions".
By the way, it's a terrific book!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By microfiche on January 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
When I began reading, I thought the subtitle should read "Fair Play for Ismay" or "Don't Bash Poor Bruce." His only fault seems to be that he left his valet and secretary behind on the ship. Then I thought the purpose of the book was to ridicule government inquiries and regulations, since the author make much of belittling the "lifeboats for all" legislation; saying that had Titanic enough for all, it would not have helped since they could not launch the 20 they had. (If there was less belief in Titanic's unsinkability, I'm sure the 4 collapsible lifeboats would have been stored in less awkward places and so would've been launched before the ship sank. The belief was that Titanic was a "Floating Lifeboat") Neither Lusitania or the Eastland were able to use their lifeboats because they sank so fast and Eastland capsized because it was overloaded with people on one side of it's deck. The ship owners suddenly cried "boats for all" because they did not want an outsider (i.e. the government) meddling with their monopolies and cozy old boys clubs; just like the movie moguls "regulated" themselves 10 years later. The wireless law was necessary because of the proliferation of mixed up messages that cause some newspapers to say "All safe. Titanic towed to Halifax."; but Cox does not mention that. As to the survivor accounts, they appear to be there to pad the book. There was no new information and no insight as to why they decided to go or stay. It's ok reading because someone had to point out that Mr. Ismay was scapegoated.Read more ›
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