Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whaling

Oh I still notice whales, I can't help it. I thought when the final edits for the novel left my hands, my obsess... fascination with things whale would quietly decline. The Blue is set in Tory Channel (NZ)  in 1938 when whalers took to the water in small fast boats and explosive harpoons, and the novel required an enormous amount of research. The thing is, though, I was interested in whales before I began the book - having reported on them and the International Whaling Commission while I worked for radio and television in the 1980s - so perhaps it will never let me go.

Here I am - to paraphrase Bette Midler - still smelling a whale at 500 paces. Having coffee with a friend the other day, I noticed a T-shirt with a whale on it four shops down the road; and in a recent visit to Wanganui with my Bookclub, I was transfixed by a piece of whale bone for sale (stranded whale, minke possibly) and bought it. I wear it around my neck. It's so light. So porous.

And here's another fave whale thing of mine - the song Whaling by Dave Dobbyn of DD Smash. My son, Paul, and his mate, Eddie, played it at my book launch on their guitars. They didn't want to sing. Hey to sing this song, you really gotta have that 80s thing going on....


5 comments:

Rachel Fenton said...

Mary - I love the descriptions of everything in your book - so much detail, and you have the synesthetics down to an art: visuals, sounds, smells, touch/feelings...but what I most wanted to know were the gruesome details..what EXACTLY does whale flesh/blubber smell like? How long does it take to die...what does the digester look like/how big/what's it made of/who made it///all those things...i suppose i ought to go and trawl through some research of my own and settle my curiosity!

T. Clear said...

I'm going to have to get my hands on a copy of your book!

I went on a whale watch (on a 50-foot sailboat) in Hawaii last February, and a grey whale glided just under the boat, then breached directly off the bow, where I was standing -- literally breathtaking!

Mary McCallum said...

Hi Rachel - the gruesome details eh? I was concerned about those in the novel from the word go = whaling being so un-PC these days and people not wanting to read about it.... As it was I know of animal lovers and vegetarians who refused to read The Blue for a while because of the whale hunts. Most found, though, that when they did read it that they weren't as horrified as they thought they'd be because the book is squarely set in 1938 when whaling was a part of the culture and a way of life. However, I felt it was important to 'translate' the stuff of whaling so the present day reader can read it and didn't dwell on the whale carcasses and the boiling ... At the same time, authenticity is all - the digester is described in an early scene when all the whaling crew gather, but only briefly - it's size etc. It was made of metal and was really just an enormous oblong vat to boil whale blubber etc. The smell was commented on by everyone who ever went past the whale station - boiled blubber and flesh - and whale meat is more like beef than fish, so imagine that.... Thank you for your comments on The Blue, I am thrilled you enjoyed the descriptions.

T/Clear - how lucky you were to see a whale up close. Researching the book, I saw humpback and sperm whales out on the water and a blue whale at a distance. There is a part of the book where one of the characters talks about seeing a whale up close out on the boats and his comment that it never ceases to get to him seeing such a huge creature like that - is true of me and true of all the whalers I talked to. There is something about whales. I am still amazed by them. Do try and get The Blue via www.nzbooksabroad.co.nz link on my blog.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you, MAry!

I'm married to a veggie so I understand that perspective but he enjoyed the book, too. I didn't want to know those details for any gruesome enjoyment but merely to know what the people who lived and worked there must have had up their nostrils all the time. It must have been so overpowering. The digestor though...that must have been bad..

Rachel Fenton said...

Oh, and was the hand bomb a grenade?