상단여백
HOME Culture Review
A Story of the Hidden Order of Life

While Kingos have been doing their best to work toward their dreams, a large part of the semester has passed. In November, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to introduce Why Fish Don’t Exist, Lulu Miller’s acclaimed nonfiction debut. This book has received numerous praises from media outlets such as The Washington Post and Book Riot for overturning existing notions and beliefs. Hence, it may be an excellent guideline for Kingos with doubts about the future. How about looking deeper into the book with the SKT?

Introducing Why Fish Don’t Exist

About the Book

In 2020, Peabody award-winning science reporter Lulu Miller published her nonfiction debut memoir, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life. As soon as the book hit the bookstores, it was praised worldwide and even recorded a rating of 4.20 at goodreads.com, the world’s largest online book community. Why Fish Don’t Exist tells the story of Miller tracing the life of David Starr Jordan, an ichthyologist and taxonomist in the late 19th century, through 13 different episodes and a plot twist.

Storyline of the Book (*Spoiler Alert)

At the beginning of the book, Miller asks her father about the meaning of life. Her father, in return, answers that life has no meaning. Paradoxically, the “meaningless life” had been a driving force in her father’s life, whereas it made the author feel emptiness rather than comfort. As the author ages, she experiences a sort of “chaos.” To overcome this, she begins digging through the life of David Starr Jordan, whom the author had been curious of for previously overcoming his own “chaos.” Miller hopes of finding an answer to overcoming her chaos through this process. However, as she gets deeper into Jordan’s life, she realizes it was no different from that of her father — a life with no meaning. Furthermore, it is revealed that Jordan was a eugenist, an advocate supporter of eugenics, which studies various conditions and factors to improve humanity genetically; his attitude towards life had caused the alienation and deaths of countless people. The author calls Jordan out for his wrongdoings three times along the course of the book. First, she claims that Jordan and her father’s attitude toward life were based on a misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory. Secondly, she directly refutes Jordan’s idea of eugenics as being wrong. Lastly, as the title of the book implies, she denies his entire life by revealing that Jordan’s fish classification, to which he dedicated his life, is meaningless under new scientific results. Hence, the reader can learn new facts and watch the tragic ending of a eugenicist who ruined millions of people’s lives.

What We Can Achieve

Going More In-Depth

Why Fish Don’t Exist is classified as a scientific nonfiction book. It also draws out the main lessons based on scientific explanations and the latest research results. However, as the book contains topics related to natural sciences, humanities, and philosophy, readers can read the book without burden. At the same time, if readers focus on the lives of Jordan and Miller, it can be interpreted as one of the most outstanding humanities books. Hence, the book establishes a connection between social sciences and natural sciences. Furthermore, many people can sympathize with this book since it develops the story based on one’s inner chaos, a common element of life. The book can be considered a story of Miller’s emotional chaos, but it still appeals to the public through its unique storyline. Finally, the massive twist in which the writer criticizes Jordan’s life has received much praise for bringing justice and revealing the truth. As the reader can commune with the author, it makes them feel they have learned a lesson together and creates a presence of hope and a sense of connection.

Why Fish Don’t Exist (kyobobook.co.kr)

Lessons We Can Learn

The author interprets Darwin’s wisdom differently from her father and Jordan. Although Darwin explained that “nature does not leap” to imply that various ways exist to give order to living creatures, Jordan misinterprets the sentence to believe that there are hierarchies in living beings. Jordan realizes the true meaning behind Darwins’ words later but stubbornly sticks to his beliefs to solidify his position as a taxonomist, which leads to his fall. Moreover, the writer emphasizes that there are many viewpoints to look at one’s life, oneself, and everything else. Thus, eugenics is never the absolute truth and is merely one of the viewpoints that exists out there. Furthermore, the book gives a big lesson on how the world should change. Why Fish Don’t Exist was published after the election of Donald Trump, during which immigrants were suffering from increased racism. As discriminating against people with their personal standards became mainstream acts, the book reminded the public of the maliciousness of Jordan and his eugenics. People should constantly question the firm standards and views popularly spread worldwide and realize the vital value of living in a relationship based on mutual trust.

David Starr Jordan (preview.kyobobook.co.kr)

Tips for Reading Why Fish Don’t Exist

At first, Why Fish Don’t Exist seems to be a simple science book, but it is meaningful, as it provides a guideline to the meaning of life. The book touches on various topics, such as the life of a scientist, taxonomy, phylogenetic systematics, and the author’s personal life. Since the book is concerned with the life of a biologist and taxonomist, Jordan, numerous scientific Latin names and the taxonomy of living creatures appear, but readers should aim to look at the bigger picture. Also, it is crucial to interpret the meaning of life based on the title. The SKT recommends finishing the book with patience since only after finishing the last chapter can the readers know why the stories were written and how they fit together to complete the bigger picture. The more the readers re-read the book, the greater the chance they might find a greater comfort in their personal lives. So, in that case, why not try reading the book again two or three more times?

김하진  0804grace@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

김하진의 다른기사 보기
icon인기기사
기사 댓글 0
전체보기
첫번째 댓글을 남겨주세요.
여백
여백
많이 본 뉴스
    여백
    Back to Top