Big Fish

Bookshelf: Big Fish

Big Fish – Richard Ellis

Big Fish
Big Fish

I enjoyed this book, at the same time finding it slightly odd. It’s a large-format volume concerned with… big fish: sharks of various kinds, including the Megalodon (now extinct), and big game fish such as swordfish, marlin and tuna. Ellis is well-read and his text is fascinating – even though much of it is concerned with game fishing. I find the sport repugnant, if I haven’t mentioned that already, and seeing pictures of trying-to-be-very-manly fishermen with the giant fish they have killed turns my stomach. Ellis provides some size and distribution statistics, habitat information, and other literary and cultural references apposite to his subject. It’s a lovely book to dip into and I look forward to looking at it with my nephew when he’s older.

Each fish is allocated a couple of pages, illustrated with some of Richard Ellis’s paintings of the creature in its natural habitat. It’s the paintings that puzzle me. Ellis is a passable artist, but favours a dull, greyish-green palette that shrouds the entire book in misery. I also have my doubts that I’d be able to recognise many of the fish I’m not familiar with after seeing one of Ellis’s paintings of them… Even though there are some haunting images among those in the book. But then again, that’s not the purpose of this book. I think I would like the book more if it were wholly illustrated with photographs – the extinct big fish can get a painting done in their honour, but mako sharks and swordfish can easily be photographed in realistic colour. I’d prefer photographs of live fish instead of the proliferation of fishermen with their kills.

I know this probably marks me out as a plebeian of note, but there is a sameness in the artwork here that detracts from the concept, text and overall execution.

You can get the book here if you’re in South Africa, and here if you’re not.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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