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Nugent, Rory, Down at the Docks (New York: Knopf, 2009).

A riveting portrait of a working waterfront and the people, tradition, rites and rituals, and aspirations disappearing from the cultural landscape hard by the water's edge.

New Bedford, Massachusetts, was once an important piece of the engine powering the nation's journey from bottom of the pile to top of the heap. Its ships and factories gave rise to immense wealth and opportunity for a large immigrant population. Today, the city is cluttered by remnants of the old machine which offer work to the fire department work but few others. The only vital industry left in town hugs the water. Rory Nugent tells the story of America's largest fishing port, a city which has withered as outsourcing and the Electronic Age have blossomed, and he homes in on its solitary fishermen, now under siege by government regulations and facing an uncertain future. His is an unblinkered view, spiced by humor, of a community mired in failed promises and struggling to maintain headway while the winds of change blow a gale. Along the way, he uses New Bedford as a mirror to tell the story of a country that has closed out the era of Emersonian self-reliance and is on to something new and is unaccommodating to holdovers from the past.


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Studies in Travel Writing (journal)
Centre for Travel Writing Studies (Nottingham Trent University)

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