A Little Book Review

Published in The Student Observer (University of Tasmania) in 2010


Review: How To Be A Real Man – A Practical Guide, by Josh Pringle


Karl Mathiesen


I was just reading about blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in my Field Guide to Australian Mammals.  The fe-whales (which are larger than the he-whales by three metres or so) can grow to 33 metres in length.  “The largest mammal ever to live”.  How rad is that?


Then a song came into my head.  I hadn’t heard it since my stepdad sang it to me when I was a young fella and my head was full of ships, knights and pirates.


The Greenland Whale Fishery


‘Twas eighteen hundred and fourty-six,

On March the eighteenth day,

We hoist our colours to the top of the mast,

And to Greenland bore away, brave boys,

And to Greenland bore away.


Oh, the look-out up on the mainmast stood

With a spy-glass in his hand.

‘There’s a whale, there’s a whale, and a whale-fish,’ he cried.

And she blows at every span, brave boys,

And she blows at every span.’



Now the harpoon struck and the lines played out,

But she gave such a flourish with her tail,

She capsized our boat and we lost five men,

And we could not catch that whale, brave boys,

And we could not catch that whale.



Oh, Greenland is a barren place,

It’s a place that bears no green,

Where there’s ice and snow, and the whale fishes blow

And the daylight’s seldom seen, brave boys,

And the daylight’s seldom seen.


Just remembering that song got me all adventurous and daydreaming.  In older days, real men were whalers.  Not that that is necessarily cool.  But folks back then didn’t think like we do now.


So now what?  Are real men whalers still?  Not in Australia anyway.  Are real men Sea Shepherd pirates?  Or do they write strong letters of consternation to the International Whaling Commission?  Do they know what jib-sheets are?


Has manhood become superfluous?  What need is there for hunters with Woolworths around the corner?  Didn’t Germaine say if women could conceive on their own then men might get bred out alltogether.  Or did I just dream that up in an impotent fever?  Have we lost the biological imperative?


Thankfully, I may have found some answers in a little book of wisdom I found in a café whilst sipping on a latté (real men use words with diacritical marks).  Josh Pringle’s How To Be A Real Man – A Practical Guide has furnished me with all sorts of tips for my journey to manhood.


I am learning the words to Springsteen’s back catalogue and shaping up for my first bear fight (no bears in Oz so I’m gonna fight my teddy).  Now, when someone asks me how long something is, I tell them in millimetres.


The truth is that real men really are a bit useless.  We have stupid daydreams about hunting massive fish and we usually forget to get the tuna at the supermarket.  But I feel okay about that.  Sometimes we do things that feel like they are a bit manly.  Even though girls can do them too.  Like using a drill or making a firewood stack with super-structural integrity.  It is somehow important to know the difference between types of screwdrivers.


Besides uselessness isn’t the worst thing that could befall nearly half the human race.  Useless can be quite interesting.  Like Uni and Antiques Roadshow.


x man love


ps.  Josh’s micro-book is free and is lying face down in cafés and bars across Hobart.  Probably just next to Josh himself.

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