A Traveler’s Guide Available Wherever Books Are Sold As Of June 20th, 2023

David Gessner

Milkweed Editions

The Tarball Chronicles

A Journey Beyond The Oiled Pelican And Into The Heart Of The Gulf Oil Spill

The Tarball Chronicles - David Gessner


Beyond the oil-soaked pelican, beyond the oil-soaked beach, beyond the Deepwater Horizon oil spill entirely, there is a deeper story of sacrifice unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. Reporters and government officials focused on the smallest part of it: oil gushed into the water for 153 days, then, on September 19, 2010, the well was capped. The story was over. But for David Gessner the unimaginable amount of oil spilled into the ocean was only the beginning.

In The Tarball Chronicles, Gessner eats, drinks, and talks his way into the heart of Gulf country—exploring the region’s birds, sea life, and ecosystems with the oceanographers, activists, and subsistence fishermen who call it home. Just how much, he asks, are we willing to sacrifice to keep living the way we do? Part absurdist travelogue, part manifesto, The Tarball Chronicles is a love song for the Gulf from an author who has “redefined what it means to write about the natural world” (Washington Post).

Winner of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment’s Best Book of the Year 2011-2012
Winner of the Reed Award for Best Book on the Southern Environment 2011
Top Books from the South 2011 Atlanta Journal Constitution

“For those interested in putting the Gulf crisis in perspective, there can be no better guide than this funny, often uncertain, frank, opinionated, always curious, informed and awestruck accounting of how we’ve gone wrong and could go right, a full-strength antidote to the Kryptonite of corporate greed and human ignorance.”  Atlanta Journal Constitution

“David Gessner’s The Tarball Chronicles takes the lyrical tradition of nature writing, adds a bit of a badass persona reminiscent of Edward Abbey, and brings both into the blighted Gulf of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Along the way, Gessner cultivates relationships that allow people across cultural, geographic, and political gaps to recognize their common interest in saving what is left in the world. Gessner doesn’t hide from the damage, even as he asserts that there is a profound beauty still in nature, and that, if the future may not offer much hope, there’s still, as Thoreau might say, a world out there to be lived in. And good lives–both human and not–still being led. This book is edgy, dynamic, darkly humorous, and engaging, with lyrical fireworks, evocatively rendered landscapes, and unflinching but sensitive portrayals of people, places and the damage done, and Gessner’s own distinctive and convincing voice rings out from the center of the action.”  The Association for the Study of Literature Judges

Anyone who wanted a first-hand look at the Gulf after the news cycle ended will find it here . . . a brilliant, thoughtful book.” — Publishers Weekly (STARRED review) 

“If you read only one book about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill this year, it should be this one. If you plan not to read any books about it, make an exception for this blunt, funny, eye-opening quest to find the real stories behind the Gulf crisis.” — Shelf Awareness

Expressive and adventurous. A profoundly personal inquiry into the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe unique in its hands-on immediacy and far-ranging ruminations.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Gessner crafts a powerfully informative but also immensely relatable narrative. He shows that while the national media has moved on to other stories and the oil has sunk to the ocean floor, the full impact of the gulf oil spill remains to be seen and the questions it raised must still be answered. Somehow he succeeds in teaching without lecturing or moralizing, making The Tarball Chronicles entertaining and rousing despite its disheartening subject matter.” — Mother Nature Network

David Gessner is on a roll.” — New Orleans Times-Picayune 

Gessner has the heart and mind of an investigative journalist. . . . Not everyone will be pleased with this Jeremiah in our midst, but the word is a fire and a hammer, and Gessner delivers it well.” — Mobile Press-Register