Loving a funny fishy tome


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Loving seafood is not necessarily the same as being fascinated by sea life, but the two do go together often enough. If, like me, you’ve been bitten by the marine biology bug (as opposed to just biting on some marine biology), you need to check out University of California at Santa Barbara research biologist Milton Love’s new ‘Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast,’ the update to his classic ‘Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast.’ (He also wrote one of the classic texts on Pacific rockfish.)

‘Absolutely hilarious’ and ‘authoritative text’ are not phrases that are commonly linked, but Love’s book is both. There are enough facts in ‘CMTYWTKAFPC’ to satisfy the geekiest fish fan. But they’re presented in a style that veers from the professorial to the surreally ridiculous in the blink of an eye.


Consider, just for one example, Love’s entry on cabezon, a fairly popular local relative of the sculpin (pretty good eating, too). After reciting the usual marine biology data points –- average size, maximum size, where found, spawning behavior, etc. –- he hits on a few salient (if weird) facts, such as that the eggs of the cabezon are toxic to shorebirds and humans alike.

And then comes the fun stuff, an extended quote (with commentary) from a historical description of the fish: ‘It is an uncouth, repulsive-looking fish … but is of good flavor, either boiled or fried.’ Of which, Love observes, ‘Parenthetically, ‘repulsive’ and ‘uncouth’ seem like rhetorical overkill, just the sort of salmon-centric thinking that seems to infect all who dwell in the Northwest. At worst, the cabezon is a species that appears to have taken up a Goth sensibility a little too intensely.’

Printed on slick heavy stock and copiously illustrated with gorgeous full-color photographs, the book is a must-buy for anyone as fascinated by fish in the water as they are by fish on the plate. It’s also a steal at a list price of $30.


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