Eco-Libris, a company dedicated to positive environmental practices in the book publishing business, is currently sponsoring a Green Books Campaign, a blogger event designed to call attention to green publishing in which 100 blogs will simultaneously review 100 green-published books.
I’m not completely sure what exactly “green publishing” means, but I like this organization’s entrepreneurial focus and I was happy to join in once I saw the array of fairly freaky book titles available for review, including Hope and the Super Green Highway, Adventures of an Aluminum Can, Raw For Dessert, Listening to Trees, Ethnic Knitting Exploration and Sleeping Naked Is Green. I picked a title called Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts, a book about fishing with poet Ted Hughes.
This book looks like a regular slim hardcover, and if I hadn’t been told the book was “green” I would never notice a difference. Is there actually a difference? It’s printed on recycled paper, but that doesn’t seem to me to go far enough. There are lots of reasons to wonder if there is any substance to “eco-friendly” publishing at all — MobyLives recently asked some probing questions about this.
The biggest concern for eco-friendly book publishing is not the small run chapbooks but the mass-market titles, and when it comes to these I think the book industry will have to do much more than print on recycled paper before they can wear a “green” stamp. I’m mostly thinking about the obscene amount of waste produced by the bad habit of printing massively hopeful over-runs of expected supersellers in bulky hardcover, shipping them on giant container ships from the third-world countries where they are manufactured to the chain stores near you where they are often displayed for a few days, forklifted back to the warehouse, packed off to discount outlets and eventually pulped.
Like every modern industry, book publishing will have to do some real soul-searching before it can credibly start wearing green. Still, any spot is a good place to start.
And none of this has anything to do with the eco-friendly book I will now briefly review, Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts: In The Wild With Ted Hughes by Ehor Boyanowsky, published by Douglas & McIntyre of Vancouver, Canada. This is a book about two things: fishing and poetry. The author indulges ecstatically in both, preferring the Pacific Northwest territory near Vancouver as his stomping grounds. Years ago, his infectious enjoyment of both arts caught the attention of renowned British poet and former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. Boyanowsky brought the British poet to his favorite rivers to bond with a certain type of fish known as steelhead salmon, and this book is the account of their sport and their conversation.
Boyanowsky is an elegant and sensitive writer expressing unabashed joy at finding himself with his two favorite things in the world — a great poet and some great salmon — at the same time. The truth is that I don’t particularly love either fishing or the poetry of Ted Hughes, but it’s Boyanowsky’s powerful voice that holds me and makes me like this book.
There are also dark currents in this book — naturally, since Ted Hughes was the husband of two women who committed suicide, one of whom was Sylvia Plath, and since their son Nicholas Hughes, another enthusiastic nature scientist, committed suicide just this year.
Nicholas Hughes appears several times in this book, usually with fishing gear in hand. But like his father, many of the fish in this book, and nature itself, his secrets remain mysterious.