Razor Clams and Writing Classes

Razor Clams a model for writing classes.
Razor Clams a model for writing classes.

In my writing classes, I emphasize that the best books and stories grow out of a deep knowledge of the subject combined with an artful dramatization of it. This is the case with David Berger’s new book, Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest.” I had a particular interest in the book because David is a friend as well as a fellow clammer. My family spent many vacations down on the Washington Coast digging razor clams. My father was not much of a hunter or fisherman, but he was mad for razor clams.

Dad often said that if you had a good vocabulary, you didn’t need to swear. But he didn’t always follow this rule. He loved to dig razor clams along the Washington Coast. We made regular family pilgrimages to Ocean Shores in search of the wily razor clam. They were especially plentiful near the surf, where you had to be quick and alert to get them.

During one trip, Dad was pounding the sand with the butt of his clam gun, trying to get the clams to show. Finally, a clam left a small dimple in the wet sand.

“I’ve got one,” he yelled, shoving the metal tube into the sand.

“C’mon, you bleep,” he said, reaching into the hole and grabbing the neck of the clam. The clam used its digger to escape. The wet sand collapsed around it. Despite the looming tide, Dad kept his back to the ocean—a mistake—so as to keep his grip on the clam.

A large wave loomed behind him. The north Pacific is never warm, especially not in winter. The cold wave crashed over him, sending him “ass over teakettle” as he would say and filling his waders. He unleashed a volley of curses, improving our vocabularies, and somehow holding on to the clam.

David’s book brought up these memories and added a great more detail and depth, something that I recommend in my writing classes. David will read this Thursday, 7 p.m. at the University Bookstore. Keep clam!