Rivers That Flow With Silver

The Pacific salmon genus Oncorhynchus are a charismatic tribe of silvery migrants once so prolific that they were used for fertilizer and dog food. But now they are, in places, so embattled that some fragile populations face extinction. In the words of Langdon Cook, author of the invigorating book “Upstream”, “They’re dissolving into fable.”

At the heart of “Upstream” is a journey—the oldest shape in literature. It follows the precarious odyssey of these fish that are born in freshwater streams, swim down to feed and mature in the ocean, then run up again to spawn just once, and die. This is known as anadromy (eels, which do the reverse, are catadromous), and salmon’s dramatic life story has captivated the imagination of many peoples in the Northern Hemisphere, eliciting wonder at the salmon’s powers of endurance and giving rise to fluvial myths and seasonal ceremonies that persist even though the heyday of great abundance is largely gone.

In tracing the history and life cycle of these iconic creatures, Mr. Cook embarks on a series of his own journeys—14 nicely episodic chapters that explore how and where such fish still survive in the modern world, despite the threats of logging, dams, the diversion of running water for domestic and commercial uses, overfishing, and climate change. It is a saga that has been told before but seldom with such immediacy and panache.

For the folks in the Seattle region, Langdon will be speaking at the upcoming Writers on the Fly event on Thursday, June 29 at the Filson Flagship Store.

LINK (via: Wall Street Journal)

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