As I continue my goal to read the books I already own (I know, what a concept), I’ve been picking quick and easy reads to get through them. I have them group by male and female authors on my shelf, and I grabbed SEAWORTHY by Linda Greenlaw the other day. Non-fiction, a couple of hundred pages, I knew I’d blow through it. But then I remembered I also have THE PERFECT STORM, which is the book that made Greenlaw famous. She was captain of Hannah Boden, the sister ship of Andrea Gail, which went down in that storm.
I’ve seen the movie, ages ago. As I remember it, that was during the time George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg made a bunch of movies together, but when I looked it up, they actually only made two: STORM and THREE KINGS. (KINGS was the better of the two.)
The book is better. Because all six men died with that ship (the wreck and the bodies were never found), Sebastian Junger wrote a meta-narrative, using radio transcripts, GPS, and interviews with the rest of the fleet. STORM isn’t an exact chronicle of what happened, but a speculation, and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Junger also writes about the other boats caught up in that 1991 storm, which I didn’t remember from the movie.
I read STORM first, then SEAWORTHY. Greenlaw has written a bunch of books (including cookbooks and mystery fiction!) since she was offered the chance after Junger made her a name. This book is her fourth non-fiction, an account of her first swordfishing trip in a decade. She’s 47 now, and everything has changed. It’s about a woman (the first female captain in the entire US) coming back to the job she loves most. It should be an inspiring book.
But as I read the last chapters, flipping forward to count how many pages remained, I read the acknowledgments and realised this wasn’t a random opportunity; this was the setup for a reality show on the Discovery Channel. The episodes are on YouTube. To use a sailor’s metaphor, this information really took the wind out of my sails.
I don’t particularly like reality TV. There are some seasons of some shows I have enjoyed (Judd and Pam 4ever!), but it’s never going to be my first choice for entertainment. And to discover near the end of this story I’ve been enjoying that there are machinations (however minor) happening off-page, it’s deflating. It changes the story.
I wish Greenlaw had explained the situation at the beginning of the book. I don’t feel like she lied, but I’m disappointed. I missed out on a big part of this story.