On Water

In this new work of creative non-fiction, Thomas Farber's language, like surf time, is organized "into sets and lulls," a compelling pattern of thrust, flow, reflection. With economy and grace, Farber integrates scientific and literary references to his eye-witness accounts of surfing, sailing, and diving the waters of Hawai'i, the South Pacific, and California. The easy sweep of his style accommodates poets, novelists, naturalists, and philosophers, giving the narrative a rich, varied texture.

Critical Praise

"Although he created it as a book of prose, Farber's tight style and sparse use of vivid imagery makes each page read more like poetry. It is a work that begs to be shared aloud with others...to be savored slowly, one chapter at a time."

                                    --Grand Rapids Press

"...an appealingly scattershot amalgam of meditations, humorous observations and quotations drawn from other essayists, novelists, poets... often at its best in conveying that singular, often solitary community of people who, like seals, are land-linked aquatic mammals--those surfers and beachcombers and kayakers whose passion for the sea becomes not pastime but a way of life."                

                                    --Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Imagine a coffee-table book without pictures. The unforgettable images here....are not photographs or paintings, but pictures drawn in words. And these images, all from Thomas Farber's unique perspective, have never been seen before."

                                    --East Bay Express

"Lyrical, broadly cast essays."

                                    --Publishers Weekly

"A marvelous, freewheeling collection of essays."

                                    --Islands Magazine

"The brief chapters of the book often read like prose poems, tiny stories, dreams, science, confessions. The author's skill as a creative writer is great enough to weave these seeming bits into a beautifully readable whole...An elegant writer is simply telling us about what he knows on an elegant subject...Thomas Farber's frame of reference is both enormous and completely personal. Like all good books, it makes writers want to write. On Water is unusually inspirational only in that it will also make surfers want to surf."

                                   --The New Mexican

Farber's language and meaning are so densely intertwined that he recreates the experience of being in the water without the help of photographs...Only a graceful (fluid!) writer can pull this off--to write about whatever you want, to wander all over the map, to present information in no other perceptible way than how your own mind works, to pull readers through that labyrinth and keep their eyes on the horizon."

                                   --Los Angeles Times

"On Water moves..with an idiosyncratic, associative power that affirms the value of personal observation and inquiry. It is part of the considerable achievement of the book that it manages to convey both the sense of having pared away the inessential or discontinuous as long as the writing remains anchored by a love for the subject itself."

                                   --Manoa Journal

"Waves of prose that ebb and flow with wit and insight and refreshment."

                                  --Philadelphia City Paper

"In the nineties, surfing began to support weightier ideas and themes. Fulbright scholar and longtime surfer Thomas Farber, in his 1994 book On Water, went so far as to place surfing at a bright spiritual nexus between life, death, earth, and religion...From Gidget to Genesis in just over thirty years. Surfing's thrills were still accounted for, but now so was the poetry. 'A gain without sacrifice of anyone or anything,' Farber writes, describing a group of surfers at Makaha. 'A rare interaction of humans and the environment. One's life passes before one's eyes.That is, just how much would you give to be in such a medium in such a way.'"

       --Matt Warshaw, Maverick's: The Story of Big Wave Surfing

"If you have any interest in the ocean or nature writing I can't recommend it enough: it's an extraordinary, brilliant, puzzling, luminous book, and like almost nothing else I've ever read.'"

       --James Bradley, editor, The Penguin Book of the Ocean