The essays and reportage in How to Breathe Underwater offer a panoramic overview of this age of radical change—from the online gambling boom in the Caribbean to Cyberjaya, the Malaysian government’s attempt to build its own Silicon Valley; from video game design to digital-age tabloid journalism to the artistry of The Simpsons; and from the fate of the Great Barrier Reef to Cuba’s economic limbo after the fall of the Soviet empire. In field reports that survey the rise of the internet in the 1990s, analyze the changing nature of mass culture in the digital age, and provide a multifaceted look at how human industry is shaping the planet’s foundations, this collection presents a fractal portrait of a society in rapid flux.
Chris Turner is the author of four previous books, a nine-time National Magazine Award winner and a sought-after speaker on the rise of the global green economy, as well as a celebrated feature writer for The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, The Globe & Mail and other major publications. His lively and passionate reportage, along with his incisive essays and shrewd cultural criticism, have for the past fifteen years made essential contributions to the debates on our climate, culture, and technology. They are collected here for the first time.
Praise for How To Breathe Underwater
“Chris Turner is among the best magazine writers on the planet. His writing is so beautiful, wry and well-reported that it's spellbinding. And spellbreaking: He wakes you up, makes you sit upright and look afresh at our culture, our climate, and where we need to go. This is literary nonfiction at its finest.”—Clive Thompson, Wired columnist and author of Smarter Than You Think
"Chris Turner is the master of long-form journalism in Canada, a smart, funny, and endlessly curious envoy to everywhere. This collection gathers his best work, forging links of meaning in a chain of superb reporting and writing; readers will see many choice pieces and realize, maybe for the first time, that they were all fashioned by the same indefatigable intelligence."—Mark Kingwell, the author of A Civil Tongue
"Whatever you choose to call this kind of stylishly reported, deeply engaged, richly nuanced, gorgeously written nonfiction--saturation reportage, new journalism, longform writing--it without question qualifies as real literature. It's the only kind of journalism that gets remembered, and the only kind that produces real change. Chris Turner has been writing it since he started taking notes.”—Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon and Globe & Mail feature writer
This collection of essays is drawn from the career of award-winning journalist and author Turner (The War on Science) from 1999 to 2012. The 15 previously published essays range in subject from online gambling companies in Antigua to the beginnings of Cyberjaya, Malaysia's version of Silicon Valley, to the inevitable death of the Great Barrier Reef to the livability of Calgary. While the essays themselves are well-written, many are now dated and no contemporary context has been added. We therefore never learn whether Antigua is still a hotspot for Internet gambling startups or whether Cyberjaya was ultimately a successful endeavor or how the Great Barrier Reef is currently faring. Still, there are a few essays that stand the test of time, including the story of Pepsi's ill-fated attempt at marketing a morning cola or Turner's take on why it is important to tip well in Cuba. It is also interesting to read the essays chronologically to note how Turner's writing style progresses and how his interests shift from the technological world to the sustainability crisis. The topical nature of some of the essays, however, leaves the collection as a whole sinking in the waters of history.