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The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King by [Cohen, Rich]
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The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 234 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Starred Review. ""This is popular history and biography at its best, making for an easy verdict: this book will appeal strongly to lay readers and scholars alike. Highly recommended to all."" - Library Journal
Starred Review. ""...it is nearly impossible to put the book down, and that's something you don't say about a lot of biographies - and especially biographies of businessmen. For anyone who enjoys a good life story, this one is an absolute must-read."" - Booklist
""Dean's skill shines as he balances an abundance of details...with the more engaging moments of Zemurray's life. He manages this through emphasis, tone, and even speed."" - AudioFile Magazine
""...Cohen waxes almost Kiplingesque as he celebrates the man and his myrmidons..."" - The New York Times

Review

Praise for The Fish That Ate the Whale:

“This is a rollicking but brilliantly researched book about one of the most fascinating characters of the twentieth century. I grew up in New Orleans enthralled by tales of Sam Zemurray, the banana peddler who built United Fruit. This book recounts, with delightful verve, his military and diplomatic maneuvers in Central America and his colorful life and business practices.” —Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and author of Steve Jobs

“Sam ‘the Banana Man’ Zemurray was a larger-than-life character. Rich Cohen is a superb storyteller. Put them together and you have a startling and often hilarious account of one of the forgotten heroes (and villains) of the American empire.” —Zev Chafets

“In Rich Cohen’s masterful and enthralling narrative, one man’s character is not simply his fate but also that of a nation. With verve, wit, and page-turning excitement, The Fish That Ate the Whale unfolds as compelling story of bold success coupled with reckless ambition. I loved this book.” —Howard Blum, author of The Floor of Heaven and American Lightning

“If this book were simply the tale of a charismatic and eccentric banana mogul, that would have been enough for me—especially with the masterful Rich Cohen as narrator. But it’s not. It is also the story of capitalism, psychology, immigration, public relations, colonialism, food, O. Henry’s shady past, and the meaning of excellence.” —A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

“What a story, and what a storyteller! You’ll never see a banana—and, for that matter, America—the same way again.” —Aleksandar Hemon, author of The Lazarus Project

“There’s a lot to learn about the seedier side of the ‘smile of nature’ in this witty tale of the fruit peddler-turned-mogul.” —Chloë Schama, Smithsonian

“Americans puzzling over the role of today’s powerful corporations — Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs, Google — may profit from considering the example of the United Fruit Company . . . A new account of United Fruit and one of its leading figures, Samuel Zemurray . . . The Fish That Ate The Whale . . . usefully reminds us of some of the wonderful things about capitalism, and some of the dangers, too . . . The book recounts all the Washington insiders hired by Zemurray as lobbyists, including Tommy “the Cork” Corcoran. A business that lives by Washington is finally at its mercy, as United Fruit learned when the antitrust cops came after it. It’s all something to remember the next time you peel a banana.” —Ira Stoll, Time

“[An] engrossing tale of the life of Sam Zemurray . . . With his nimble narrative journalism, Cohen makes a convincing case that the somewhat obscure Sam Zemurray was in fact a major figure in American history. Cohen does so with a prose briskly accented with sights, sounds and smells, and invigorated with offhand wisdom about the human journey through life. What’s rarer about Cohen’s style is his skill with metaphor. His are apt and concise, but they’re also complex . . . There are men of action and there are men of words: The contrast between them is a sort of shadow narrative in The Fish That Ate the Whale . . . At the end of Cohen’s story, impetuous doers such as Zemurray not only cede the moral high ground, but also live to witness the terrifying power of the talkers . . . If some level of this book proposes a contest of Cohen vs. Zemurray, then the win goes rather unambiguously to Cohen; to paraphrase Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the pen is mightier than the banana.” —Austin Ratner, The Forward

“[A] grippingly readable biography . . . Cohen fleshes out the legend [of Samuel Zemurray] in a 270-page account full of novelistic scene setting and speculative flights—the kind of writing that . . .  puts Cohen firmly in the tradition of non-fiction reportage pioneered by Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer. Based on scores of interviews, four years of archival research and on-the-spot reporting from Central America and New Orleans, the book carries its details easily, sweeping readers on a narrative flood tide that matches the protean energy of Zemurray himself . . . As sketched by Cohen, the big man emerges as a complicated, all-too-human hero, one whose bullish nature sometimes blinded him, but never let him accept defeat.” —Chris Waddington, New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Cohen’s biography of ‘Banana King’ magnate Samuel Zemurray in The Fish That Ate the Whale is really a history of the yellow fruit itself . . . Zemurray exemplified both the best and worst of American capitalism. His saga provides plenty of food for thought next time you grab one off the bunch.” —Keith Staskiewicz, Entertainment Weekly

“In The Fish That Ate the Whale Rich Cohen sketches a lively and entertaining portrait of Samuel Zemurray, a banana importer and entrepreneur who rose from immigrant roots to take the helm of the storied United Fruit Co., among other accomplishments . . . Cohen unfurls a rich, colorful history of a man who championed the establishment of the State of Israel by providing arms and ships to the Irgun, the nascent underground army. He gave muscle and capital to Eisenhower’s decision to stage Operation PBSuccess, a CIA coup against Jacobo Arbenz’s teetering democracy in Guatemala in 1954 . . . Was he a conquistador, pirate, explorer, tycoon, or a man of the people? Cohen’s textured history shows that Zemurray played all of these roles, making him the ultimate Zelig-like character of the 20th century.” —Judy Bolton-Fasman, The Boston Globe

“Here’s what I’m sure about: You’ve never thought about reading a book about the banana business and/or Sam Zemurray, the guy perhaps most responsible building it. Here’s what I'm also sure about: You absolutely should read The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America's Banana King, by Rich Cohen.” —Mark Bazer, WBEZ


Product details

  • File Size: 1067 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1448104653
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Publication Date: June 5, 2012
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071VOLN8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,664 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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