Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moby Duck: when bath toys go rogue

What do you get when 28,800 rubber ducks spill into the Pacific Ocean? In the hands of a good story-teller, truth about the ocean, insight into people, and a grand organizing theory of the universe. Or at least 2 out of those 3.

That's why I'm eager to read Moby Duck--The true story of 28,800 bath toys lost at sea, by Donovan Hohn. Why is this book interesting when the ocean-mapping rubber duck story has already been told by others? Because THIS one has a tremendous new Ocean Odyssey flavor that's just my thing, it's all Swim Around Bainbridge.

Check out this intriguing review in the New York Times, excerpted below:

At once frivolous and freighted with cultural symbolism, the plastic duck makes a perfect subject for a writer of Hohn’s ambition. “What misanthrope, what damp, drizzly November of a sourpuss, upon beholding a rubber duck afloat, does not feel a Crayola ray of sunshine brightening his gloomy heart?” he asks. But both the birth and the afterlife of the duck, Hohn soon learns, are toxic. Adrift on the ocean, the toys can become coated with “persistent organic pollutants” like polyvinyl chloride, bisphenol A and phthalates. Photodegraded into smaller pieces, they can be fatally ingested by sea creatures and will endure, in swirling gyres, for years.

As the ducks drift, so drifts Hohn, from the China-based toy industry to the depths of polymer chemistry; from a history of childhood to Sesame Street’s “Rubber Duckie” and the role of animals in art; from early Arctic exploration to modern maritime disasters and the study of hydrography. Hohn is game to learn as much as he can, and his scholarship is impressive. But his real interests are far more abstract: the nature of quests, the line between fable and fact, the distinction between the natural and the man-made worlds, and the impossibility of fully understanding one’s place — to say nothing of a toy duck’s — in relation to the universe.

Maybe I can get a free review copy from the publisher, there ought to be a few perks to being such an important ocean blogger, right? Or if not, I'll just swim down to Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island and *sigh* pay for a copy.

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