Saturday, January 28, 2012

ReView of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne : What is a book like this without I-L-L-U-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N-S ?

This book is one of the first, most prominent, books of my life.  I remember, very vividly, the impact it had on me when I was young.  It was a hardcover book with a huge illustration on the cover.  I don't remember the exact illustration but it did have a big boat or a submarine of some kind on it.  As I opened this book, I realized there was a lot of writing on the left side pages and a huge illustration on the right side of some pages.  I think I was too young to appreciate the writing and what it had to say or maybe I was just too rebellious to agree with my father when he would praise it so much, nevertheless, I was absorbed by the illustrations.  Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

When I picked up this book, again, just recently, I expected the same types of images, only this time all I had to immerse myself in was writing.  N-O   I-M-A-G-E-S.  It is a crime they even made a version of '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' without images.  First of all, this novel is about the journey of under water life.  Secondly, it is heavy and saturated with aquatic species.  Lastly, the plot and story-line is very little focused on in terms of meaning and purpose in delivering the book.  Put all these three together and you come down with a very dry book with moments in the book of run-on pages of underwater species that you more or less have no idea what they are.  I remember being enthralled completely by this book when I was younger.  

Today, after reading it for the second time, I feel conflicted about it; definitely not as enthused about it as I have been.  A large part in this being the lack of illustrations in the version of the book I purchased, although other things played a part in it.  I felt throughout the book that this was a field-specific novel, meaning I had to be familiar with the topics and information planted in the story-line for me to enjoy and continue reading it without hitting my hand on my forehead and asking myself 'what is going on?'  These parts of the book are now more rewarding and worth-while to have read after having googled some species of fish and creatures thereby actually having an idea of what is happening or being written about in the book.  Image yourself in a submarine under water and seeing these images, take in the wonder!

Aside from the downfall of the imagery and illustration, there was a point of satisfaction and fulfillment from this book, and that was learning about a few concepts.  For example: the composition of sea-water, the currents and weather conditions of the world, lactified oceans by infusorias, and how pearls are extracted.  The most fascinating was probably my introduction to two species of fish.    

One is the REMORA:  'Jules Verne introduces this species of fish in the book and says the following it about it: 'that fastens on to the shark's belly.  This little fish, according to the ancients, hook on to the ship's bottom, could stop its movements: and one of them, by keeping back Antony's ship during the battle of Actium, helped Augustus to gain the victory.' The images of this sea creature is just beautiful:

The other is the LUTJAN: 'This is what Jules Verne has to say about it in the novel, 'a fish held sacred by the Greeks, who attributed to them the power of hunting the marine monsters from waters they frequented.  Their name signifies flower, and they justify their appellation by their shaded colors, their shades comprising the whole  gamut of reds from the paleness of the rose to the brightness of the ruby and the fugitive tints that clouded their dorsal fin.'

Having said that about the dense amount of information on species and creatures, I should probably mention one or two things in regards to the plot.  Captain Nemo, is a respectable dude.  He has his own library in the submarine, he is compassionate and intelligent, and most of all owns his navigational skills.  There are enough twists and turns, in water and on land, if this is your type of book, to enjoy it to a certain extent.  Although, I do have to say that the story is definitely impeded by the scientific jabber that saturates the story.  It a very dichotomized novel between the science and literature.

I will not be reading this book for a very long time.  Maybe I will pick it up when I am in old age.  I might possibly miss it then, but for now I have gotten all that I could out of it.  It was nice to revisited it.  I understand, now, that as a child I had an inclination towards aquatic life, as I do now, considering I LOVE aquatic life and have my own fish tank.  This book was the closest literature I had to an intrigue of mine and I took a liking to it without too much understanding of the context and details involved in what its message is.  As a young child, I had a very narrow and innocent perspective of this book which fed my nature and instinctual inclinations about life-aquatic life, imagery/illustrations/drawings, and possibly even biological science.  Today it seems the understanding I have of the book is much more expanded and filtered, or maybe my tastes and inclinations have slightly transformed since I have been a child making this book less appealing to me.


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