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Breaking Through

Breaking Through: Essays, Journals, and Travelogues of Edward F. Ricketts

EDITED BY Katharine A. Rodger
Foreword by Susan F. Beegel
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 369
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  • Book Info
    Breaking Through
    Book Description:

    Trailblazing marine biologist, visionary conservationist, deep ecology philosopher, Edward F. Ricketts (1897-1948) has reached legendary status in the California mythos. A true polymath and a thinker ahead of his time, Ricketts was a scientist who worked in passionate collaboration with many of his friends-artists, writers, and influential intellectual figures-including, perhaps most famously, John Steinbeck, who once said that Ricketts's mind "had no horizons." This unprecedented collection, featuring previously unpublished pieces as well as others available for the first time in their original form, reflects the wide scope of Ricketts's scientific, philosophical, and literary interests during the years he lived and worked on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. These writings, which together illuminate the evolution of Ricketts's unique, holistic approach to science, include "Verbatim transcription of notes on the Gulf of California trip," the basic manuscript for Steinbeck's and Ricketts'sLog from the Sea of Cortez;the essays "The Philosophy of Breaking Through" and "A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry;" several shorter pieces on topics including collecting invertebrates and the impact of modernization on Mexican village life; and more. An engaging critical biography and a number of rare photographs offer a new and richly detailed view of Ricketts's life.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93266-1
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Susan F. Beegel

    A marine biologist by profession and a philosopher by vocation, Edward F. Ricketts is paradoxically famous and yet relatively unknown. Hundreds of thousands have met him without ever learning his real name; he is best known as John Steinbeck’s immortal character Doc—half Christ and half satyr, scientist and mystic, sinner and savior—protagonist of the bittersweet experimental novelCannery Rowand its comic, popular sequel,Sweet Thursday. The fictional Doc has taken on a life of his own. In 1982, the actor Nick Nolte played Doc opposite Debra Winger—as the prostitute Suzy—in a movie version of the...

  5. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-79)

    Edward F. Ricketts’s passion for zoology began when he was a child in urban Chicago during the first years of the twentieth century, well before he was a fledgling collector on the shores of Monterey Bay in California in the 1920s. In a letter, he recalls, “At the age of six, I was ruined for any ordinary activities when an uncle who should have known better gave me some natural history curios and an old zoology textbook. Here I saw for the first time those magic and incorrect words ‘coral insects’” (to Harcourt, Brace, and Company).¹ In her unpublished notebook,...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Foreword to the 1925 Pacific Biological Laboratories Catalog
    (pp. 80-83)

    The 1925 Pacific Biological Laboratories catalog that Ed Ricketts produced was his first major scientific publication. A twenty-five-page, letter-size volume, it is bound in a dark brown paper cover and includes photographs and line drawings of many specimens available from his company, along with information about the size of the specimens, packaging, and cost. The catalog’s primary purpose was to advertise, but it was likely the first handbook of some of the common intertidal species of the Monterey Bay area. (Not all specimens in the catalog were regional. Ricketts collected and sold various marine animals common to the entire western...

  8. CHAPTER 2 “Zoological Introduction” to Between Pacific Tides
    (pp. 84-88)

    Ricketts revised the original draft ofBetween Pacific Tidesthroughout the early 1930s, resubmitting it to Stanford University Press in 1936. To this draft he appended his four-page “Zoological Introduction,” in which he defended the book’s ecological arrangement as “a natural history in every sense of the word.” In this introduction, he notes that arrangingBetween Pacific Tidesaccording to shore habitats “necessitated a great amount of field work, most of which could have been obviated if the traditional treatment had been used.” But he was committed to the book’s form and to an ecological method and perspective focused on...

  9. CHAPTER 3 “The Philosophy of ‘Breaking Through’”
    (pp. 89-104)

    Ricketts drafted and revised this essay throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, often after discussions and correspondence with friends such as John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell. The version included here is from a typescript marked “Revised July 1940, Mexico City,” composed of fifteen double-spaced pages, and it reflects a number of suggestions Campbell made in a 1939 letter. Ricketts’s notion of breaking through derived largely from his readings of theTao Teh Ching, T. D. Suzuki’sEssays in Zen Buddhism, and Jeffers’sRoan Stallion, but as with most of his ideas, he integrated concepts from many sources and disciplines. He...

  10. CHAPTER 4 “A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry”
    (pp. 105-118)

    The shortest of Ricketts’s three philosophical essays—the 1939 version reproduced here is a fourteen-page typescript—”A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry” represents an attempt to “work out” his notions about breaking through and non-teleological thinking “in an actual, practical way in life” (“New Series Notebook No. 1,” 9). Though classifying poets according their ability to convey or to trigger transcendence is undoubtedly subjective, it can be seen as an exercise, an experiment in how to implement Ricketts’s philosophical modus operandi. The essay itself—particularly his discussion of the four “growth stages” of poets—is the most detailed analysis of literature...

  11. CHAPTER 5 “Essay on Non-teleological Thinking”
    (pp. 119-133)

    Ricketts developed this essay during the early years of his friendship with John Steinbeck, a period also marked by collaborations with Joseph Campbell, Henry Miller, and other friends and colleagues. At the heart of Ricketts’s desire to articulate non-teleological thinking is his struggle to put into language that which by its very nature eludes definition. Deeply philosophical, Ricketts’s essay is at times convoluted, but the significance of non-teleological thinking is of primary importance to his unified field hypothesis—as he says in the essay, it is the “modus operandi” through which he interprets life. Through “isthinking,” Ricketts believes, an...

  12. CHAPTER 6 “Verbatim Transcription of Notes of Gulf of California Trip, March–April 1940”
    (pp. 134-201)

    This collection of notes consists of forty-six, single-spaced typed pages documenting the Sea of Cortez expedition, as well a two-page addendum called “Statement of Collecting Stations in the Spring 1940” that lists coordinates and topographical information for each collecting stop. The “Verbatim Transcription” details every aspect of the trip; passages describe incidents and locations and list the specimens collected and weather conditions. The typescript also presents Ricketts’s personal observations and reflections about everything from scientific work, including his remarks on collecting methods and wildlife; to local culture, including in particular his observations about the friendliness of Mexicans they encountered; to...

  13. CHAPTER 7 “Thesis and Materials for a Script on Mexico”
    (pp. 202-214)

    The antiscript Ricketts composed during the summer of 1940, “Thesis and Materials for a Script on Mexico Which Shall Be Motivated Oppositely to John’s ‘Forgotten Village’,” is the only existing documentation of the single most profound ideological disagreement between Ricketts and Steinbeck. A thirteen-page typescript partly in outline form, the antiscript was a pointed response to Steinbeck’s movie scriptThe Forgotten Village, in which technology triumphs over traditional custom. Even more important, it reveals Ricketts’s growing discomfort with the global decline of indigenous culture crowded out by sprawling modernity, a phenomenon he witnessed firsthand in his travels to the Sea...

  14. CHAPTER 8 “Outline and Conspectus” for a Book on the Mandated Islands
    (pp. 215-221)

    Ricketts’s interest in the Japanese Mandated Islands—in particular the Palau Islands east of the Philippines—began in the early 1940s and continued through World War II. Though he initially hoped to assist the United States Navy by gathering data about the region from published studies by Japanese scientists, his correspondence and encounter with military officials—portrayed by Steinbeck in “About Ed Ricketts”—were less than fruitful. Ricketts turned his attention instead to assembling a popular book that would help American citizens understand the history and culture of the region’s inhabitants. In the five-page typescript he drafted in 1944, “Outline...

  15. CHAPTER 9 “Transcript of Summer 1945 and 1946 Notes Based on Trips to the Outer Shores, West Coast of Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, and So On”
    (pp. 222-323)

    By 1945, Ricketts had begun what he expected to be the third volume in his North American Pacific trilogy, a study of the outer shores of British Columbia that would complete an ecological map of marine invertebrates of the North American Pacific coast. That summer, he and Toni Jackson made a six-week ecological reconnaissance of Vancouver Island studying marine specimens and coastal environs—the first of a series of preparatory trips for the project. One year later, they returned, accompanied by Ed Ricketts Jr., recently discharged from the army, and expanded their survey to include the Queen Charlotte Islands. Ricketts...

  16. CHAPTER 10 “Investigator Blames Industry, Nature for Shortage”
    (pp. 324-330)

    Ed Ricketts’s serious studies of the sardine cycle span the almost twenty-five years he lived and worked in Monterey—from the mid-1920s through the late 1940s—as he watched the boom and bust of Cannery Row. By the time his last and most articulate essay about the subject, “Investigator Blames Industry, Nature for Shortage,” appeared in the 1948Monterey Peninsula Herald, the canning industry had begun to collapse. In his article he attempted to explain the crisis in a historical context. The article ran on the first and third pages of the newspaper and included a bar graph of the...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 331-332)

    So ended Edward F. Ricketts’s career, prematurely, at a time of considerable environmental and economic peril for the Monterey Bay, a region that defined him. In his final essay, we see him struggle to come to grips with a crisis and reconcile the complexity of the human and natural factors affecting the sardine. Had he lived, Ricketts would have borne witness to the final collapse of Cannery Row and the industry that transformed Monterey from a mere fishing village to one of the world’s industrialized fishing and canning centers for more than half a century. His work was far from...

  18. Living at the Lab with My Father
    (pp. 333-335)
    Ed Ricketts Jr.

    Our family broke up in 1936, when Dad moved out of the Carmel house to live in his lab across the hill, on Cannery Row in Monterey. Later, Mother and my sisters went to Washington State and I moved to the Row—an abrupt change for me. What were once leisurely times in a sleepy town with frequent morning hikes up Carmel Valley to hunt cottontails suddenly turned into near chaos.

    Our little building, “the Lab,” was crammed between noisy, smelly sardine canneries. Across the street were two whorehouses and a Chinese general store. During the day, when fish were...

  19. Early Days: Nicknames and Such
    (pp. 336-340)
    Nancy Ricketts

    “Mugwumps” is what he called all three of us children from time to time. Dad was big on names, on words in general. And “Mugwumps” was always said so lovingly! Among other names he called me were “Peaches” and “Nancy Jane, Butterfly name”; he called both Rikki and me “Wormy” quite often—it was a precious name. For a while when we were very young, brother Ed and I were “Sheik and Sheba.” I introduced sister Rikki, whose given name was Cornelia Frances, as “Cornelia Frances ’n Connie” when she and I were out visiting and cadging cookies—I don’t...

  20. Works Cited
    (pp. 341-346)
  21. Index
    (pp. 347-348)