Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Biography: One With the Sea by Richard Daniel O’Leary

In One With the Sea (Jetty House), much is made of author Richard Daniel O’Leary’s affinity and passion for the sea. But it’s more than that that pushes the young man back to become head of a large shipping and cruise company. What started as a one-man operation grows to be a national company. By the time O’Leary retired in 2005 after 34 years as head of Cruise International, he was responsible for more than 2500 employees operating out of ten ports.

Though there is a sense of great deeds just below the surface in much of One With the Sea, it never moves very far beyond the realm of family memoir. The wife, the daughters, the poodles take up many of the pages, and that’s fine. O’Leary comes across as warm and loving, and that’s pleasant, as we spend a lot of time with him. But, for the most part, the book meanders rudderlessly. One is sure the book is accurate and that all the necessary facts are there, but it’s never anywhere as interesting as it could be and you get the feeling that, just below the surface, great stories are waiting to be told.

This is the biography of an interesting man’s long and well-lived life. His time in the Merchant Marine leading him to start a significant business that has led to a prosperous life for his beautiful family. The book includes correspondence and documents and sometimes feels more like a corporate monograph than one man’s biography. So be it: O’Leary is a captain of industry and a master capitalist, not a writer and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just be prepared to bog a bit in places. There are lessons in business to be gleaned here and those captaining their own sea-oriented businesses might make a point of seeking out One With the Sea and spending some time in O’Leary’s company. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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