Book Review: The Gigantic Book of Sailing Stories edited by Stephen Brennan

The Gigantic Book of Sailing StoriesThe Gigantic Book of Sailing Stories
Compiled and edited by Stephen Brennan
Skyhorse Publishing, April 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60239-209-0

Nearly 75% percent of the earth’s surface will not support human beings. Nor are the oceans drinkable. Yet has the sea been a fascination for human millennia, as well as a source of sustenance and a means of travel to the farflung edges of our planet.

The sea and its ineffable rhythms have long intrigued human kind, from poets and scholars to the roughest of working stiffs who shipped aboard to avoid past debts or family strife, who went to war and who went into the commerce of the time. Now comes a man so apparently obsessed with the sea and its tales that he has compiled a truly gigantic collection of sailing stories and poetry. Hardly a significant writer from Twain to Coleridge to Wilkie Collins is here not referenced. The tome, nearly 800 pages in length, is nicely illustrated with black and white art. It spans the ages, from Homer to Dickens to Melville and Byron. All the stories are truthful tales, and all offer flights of fantasy. Readers will choose which facts to accept and which to ignore.

The entire work is well-designed, blest by outstanding writing, nicely illustrated, and is the sort of volume one would expect to find residing on a dark and possibly dusty shelf in the back corner of a nineteenth-century library, a part of the collection by some obscure industrial titan.

It is the kind of literary work that fills an important function by bringing together and preserving an important and emotional element of humankind’s history and literary traditions. One hopes it resides in the collection of every library across the world.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.