Talk and Book Launch /
The Sounding of the Whale, by D. Graham Burnett

Date: Saturday, 28 January 2012, 5–7 pm
Location: Cabinet, 300 Nevins Street, Brooklyn (map and directions here)
FREE. No RSVP necessary

Listen to an audio recording of this program, or download here.
00:00 / 00:00

Please join us for the launch of Cabinet editor D. Graham Burnett’s book The Sounding of the Whale (University of Chicago Press), an event featuring whale images, whale talk, whale songs, and whale appetizers (mock whale, that is—culinary conjurings by cuisine genius Kiel Borrman).

In 1922, the distinguished Cambridge physicist C. V. Boys teamed up with a coterie of sporting archers, colonial old hands, and creepy amateur medievalists who convened as London’s Royal Toxophilite Society to build the ultimate bow weapon: a giant steel crossbow, built according to the dictates of modern ballistics, and so powerful and unwieldy that it had to be mounted on the swivel station of an anti-aircraft gun. Why? Whale shooting. And not just any whale shooting. Whale shooting for science. It did not end well.

Nor did the larger story of whales and science in the twentieth century. From monstrous kegs of fat and fertilizer (bombed, blasted, stripped, and immolated) to soulful, musical friends of humanity (bellwethers of environmental irresponsibility and totems of the counterculture)—cetaceans have swum a strange transit through the collective imagination over the last century. Across the same period, factory whalers hunted nearly all populations of large marine mammals to brink of collapse.

In this new book, Burnett tells the sweeping story of whales as “problems of knowledge” since 1900. Weaving Melvillian madness with industrial killing, new age environmentalism with Cold War mindcraft, the mathematical minutiae of population modeling with the bluster of international politics, The Sounding of the Whale is an eight-hundred-page effort to come to terms with what may be human beings’ most troubled relationship with another animal.

Beer for this event has been lovingly provided by Brooklyn Brewery.