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Thursday, October 9, 2014


More hints and reflections from Lincoln Paine.

What helped make your book tour a success?

It was helpful that I had had 26 reviews—12 in the U.S., the rest from England, India, Australia, and China); and 3 honors. I’ve also caught a few odd shout-outs here and there, the most unlikely being in Gregg Easterbrook’s “season-ending book recommendations” on, the sports network, back in February, and the English rapper and journalist Akala’s “book list” last month.

What about the venues?  Were any of the events particularly delightful?  

The variety of venues makes it difficult to single out any one of them. I got to stay at a number of stately institutions, including the Metropolitan Club in Washington, the Union Club, and a number of yacht clubs, including the American (Rye, New York), the New York, and St. Francis (San Francisco).

The engagement that had the greatest impact on me was a talk I gave at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. The impact was not just that I couldn’t believe how dead Bar Harbor is in wintertime—the signs outside the shuttered hotels are under wraps to protect them from the elements. Preparing for my talk I discovered that all students at the College of the Atlantic major in human ecology, which is the study of how people interact with the social, technological, and natural environments.

Why does this stand out in your memory?

It seems to me that that you can define maritime history in exactly the same way, and I have in fact used that formulation in every talk I’ve given since. COA describes itself as “for idealists with elbow grease,” and its student body is about as unlike that of a service academy as one can imagine. Yet when I told students at King’s Point and SUNY Maritime that their curriculum and chosen careers were essentially about human ecology—interacting with the social, technological, and natural environments—they didn’t bat an eye.

Route masters in the Indian Ocean c.1410 Bridgeman Art Library
One of the illustrations from The Sea & Civilization

Any other pluses?

Another venue that was an unexpected delight was the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, and not just because they flew me cross-country—which opened up the possibility of my speaking elsewhere in California—but because most of their guests are oceanographers and conservationists, subjects that I address only fleetingly.
Being asked to speak there was a treat because I feel, perhaps wrongly, that the oceanographic community doesn’t normally engage their discipline historically, and this invitation seemed like something of a breakthrough.

Were there any serendipitous encounters?

 At the Hotchkiss Library signing I sat a few seats away from Francine Prose, and having just read Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, introduced myself. She seemed as bemused by the ending of her book as I am. I also got to meet the novelist and memoirist Kate Christensen at an event hosted by The Telling Room where we were featured authors. I had seen her at a reading and we live in the same small city and would certainly have met at some point through mutual friends, but it was still pretty exciting.

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