“Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down, / ‘Twas sad as sad could be; / And we did speak only to break / The silence of the sea.” –- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge). If you’re planning on spending some time on the open water this summer — or, more likely, if you only wish you were, you’re in luck. After all, you can get a taste of sea salt air from your living room… if you choose the right book. To that end, Flavorwire asked Ethan Rutherford, whose own excellent debut collection, The Peripatetic Coffin, is a perfect nautical summer read, awash with sailboats, ships and futuristic whales, to pick his favorite seafaring reads for summer or any time.
“The sea was like a smooth pampas of quicksilver: so steady you could not split shore from reflection, till the casual collision of a pelican broke the phantom.” Recently reissued by NYRB Classics, A High Wind In Jamaica by the Welsh writer Richard Hughes is as singular and strange as its cover — a painting by the artist Henry Darger — would suggest. The Bas-Thorton children, en route to England, find themselves captives aboard a schooner populated by cross-dressing pirates, and quickly make themselves at home on the high seas. It would take 10,000 words to describe just how weird and wonderful this book is — the children are both imperiled and the imperilers, there’s a fight between a lion and a tiger, charged intimacy in close quarters, and a barely concealed hatred of the “new” steamships — but Hughes, who also wrote the terrific In Hazard, is unparalleled in his descriptions of all things ship-and-sea related.