Monday, December 7, 2009

Bookblogging: Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo

Molasses is fundamentally surreal. You've got the expression "It's like pushing molasses up a sandy hill." You've got the Molasses Hat Gang described in Luc Sante's Low Life, which had the signature gambit of "walking into grocery stores, asking the keeper to fill a derby hat with molasses 'on a bet,' clapping the hat over the proprietor's head, and emptying the till." It won't freeze, it will ferment, and you still can't remember what molasses tastes like even though you've had this whole paragraph to think about it.

And then there's the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, in which twenty-one people were drowned by a fifteen-foot-high, 35 mph wave of molasses unleashed when a two million gallon vat busted. Much of that molasses was destined for use in munitions for World War I, so there was some speculation that bomb-throwing Italian anarchists were behind the busted tank -- they'd done that sort of thing before -- but it turned out to be a problem of engineering, not terrorism. Still, it's a funny story that isn't actually very funny. Unless you think about it. If the phrase "Great Molasses Flood" rings your bell, go for Puleo's odd little book.

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