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The seaport that could slip away

Mark Kurlansky considers the future of Gloucester, Mass., and its fishermen.

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Fans of Mark Kurlansky’s previous bestsellers, “Cod,” “Salt,” and “The Big Oyster,” are familiar with this author’s use of both recipes and historical lore to describe the fishing heritage of Gloucester, Mass.

His books also give a nod to nearby Rockport and other parts of Cape Ann, as well as to the area’s maritime painters, writers, and inventors, including Winslow Homer, John Sloan, Edward Hopper, T.S. Eliot, Charles Olson, and Clarence Birdseye (whose freezers put an end to drying salt cod).

You’ll also find salt, cod, and even a few oysters in this new mix, but mostly The Last Fish Tale is the story of one fishing village and its struggle for identity and survival.

The history of Gloucester, first designated as a city in 1873, also expands to include “The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America’s Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town.” That subtitle is quite a mouthful, even by big cod standards, and readers may feel as if they are being dragged – skittering and bouncing – over this vast ocean floor of a topic like a big trawler’s drag nets.


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