Jeffrey Cohen takes time out from his pending trip to Catalonia to respond to my repsonse to his beach thoughts, and say some nice things about my book.
I especially like the two-prongedness of his emphasis on beaches as spurs to physical activity (though he does not mention swimming), and also reminders of the relative weakness of the human bodies performing those activities —
If I say I find the sea calming in its agitation, that’s not because I sit at its edge with sun lotion and an alcoholic drink. For me the sea’s edge is for beachcombing, hiking, exploring. It’s a place of constant realization, of possible danger, of frequent reminders of death (empty shells, broken crabs, sea life suffocated in sand). The immensity of the sea reminds me of the small place of humans alongside its flow. Vastness gives perspective. That’s what I find calming: my own small agitations dissipate under those relentless waves, those sudden vistas and unexpected glimpses of life, all that noise so saturated with meaning it is chaos itself. Beautiful chaos, chaos as art.
I also like his thoughts on the “insinuating” quality of the ocean in shared human histories.