Green Books Campaign: Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts

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.

4 Responses

  1. This sounds like a
    This sounds like a fascinating book in spite of the mystery. I agree in terms of “green” publishing there is a long way to go, but I think using recycled paper is a good place to start. I reviewed Saffron Dreams as part of the campaign.

  2. I used to think that books
    I used to think that books were things that you never threw away. You either gave them to someone else when you were done reading them, or found a nice spot for them on your library shelf. Worst case scenario you donated them to the Salvation Army.

    The idea of masses of books being forklifted into a giant machine for pulping is just abhorent to me.

    In the middle ages books were so precious that only wealthy nobles or the church owned them.

    Now they have become just another disposable thing in our disposable world, like beer cans or plastic cups.

  3. Poor Ted and Sylvia (and now
    Poor Ted and Sylvia (and now Nick)! No one will ever review anything from them without mentioning the suicides. Not even a book on fishing! Are there “dark currents” in the book (can you elaborate? would you? shouldn’t you?), or do readers imagine these dark currents because they are oh so familiar with the back story? Ah, quit yer kvetching, Cal! The world slides down the gullet of decay and doom like a raw oyster being chased by Miller Lite, and no one is immune from the effects of its demise. It sounds like a good book, and Ted was always my favorite Brit poet, and I’ve long been fond of fishing. I should be ecstatic that the three are combined into one slim volume, published green even! Maybe it’s the heartburn…

  4. Funny, but my “capture” word
    Funny, but my “capture” word to be able to post a comment is Kerouac.

    Great and thought provoking commentary on the publishing industry. I agree that being posted on a mere 30% recycled paper really doesn’t seem like that big of a step considering how many resources are used to fill the shelves at the big box bookstores.

    This looks like an interesting read. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we end up in relationships with the same type of people over and over again – and he seems to have proved that point in the extreme.

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