Review of Jack E. Davis’s “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea” in the Dallas Morning News

So last Sunday my review of Jack E. Davis’s The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea appeared in the Dallas Morning News, and can be found here. It’s a terrific book about the Gulf of Mexico, on the shores of which I grew up.

I compared it to Simon Winchester’s Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories (2010)—is it just me, or is that title a tad long? That puts Jack E. Davis in good company: Simon Winchester is one of the few nonfiction writers I follow enthusiastically, as I’ve been a fan of his ever since reading Krakatoa: the Day the World Exploded (2003), which was a bestseller, for good reason: his descriptions of Krakatoa’s eruption and the historical research are both harrowing and fascinating. At one point the beaches of Krakatoa burst open and lava began pouring out into the sea, well before the actual explosion of its volcanic cone, which was famously a sound heard over a thousand miles away.

In high school I lived in a rickety wooden house on the shore of Copano Bay, north of Rockport, Texas, and could see heron and egret nests from our upstairs porch. Our pier stretched out into the bay, and I could swim and sail virtually every day of summer, except for the time spent frying and boiling shrimp at my parents’ seafood restaurant. I miss it. My mother used to say we were “born with sand between our toes,” and I think she’s right. The shores of the Gulf haunted me for years, so much that I had to write my own novel as a kind of homage to its effect on me—Goodnight, Texas (2006).

About williamjcobb

William J. Cobb is a novelist, essayist, and short fiction writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, The Mississippi Review, The Antioch Review, and many others. He’s the author of two novels—The Fire Eaters (W.W. Norton 1994) and Goodnight, Texas (Unbridled 2006)—and a book of stories, The White Tattoo (Ohio State UP 2002). He has reviewed books for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times. He lives in Pennsylvania and Colorado. He may be contacted at
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