One of their own takes us along for an enjoyable evening saloon-side in the company of small-scale commercial fishermen and their tales, tall and true.
After two memoirs of her life at sea (The Lobster Chronicles, 2002, etc.), the author writes, “I am sick to death of Linda Greenlaw,” so these stories take her out of herself and into the words of other fishermen from her base in Portland, Maine. Greenlaw goes to the bar to encourage an older friend of hers to retire, but as one fisherman after another enters the establishment, the evening gravitates toward sea stories. “Fishermen lie to protect their livelihood and pride, but also purely in the interests of entertainment,” the author notes, yet none of these remembrances of bad days at sea feel overwrought. The bread-and-butter stories chronicle hellacious weather, falls into the water that lead to sojourns on abandoned islands, clandestine runs with marijuana rather than swordfish in the hold, bad catches, and bad crews. Winds are so strong they bend glass, presentiments save some lives and destroy others, tantalizing paychecks make fools of veterans. All fishermen may be liars, but these stories are spun out with such ease that you’d need tweezers to lift out the malarkey embedded in otherwise true material. And they’re spun at full, leisurely length, which gives the proceedings their proper tone of foreboding. Greenlaw draws an impressive picture of the independent fisherman’s world, with all its hard choices: for instance, do you cut loose a piece of equipment that is compromising a boat's safety, even though its cost equals the potential salary of the entire crew? In the end, it’s easy to see that fishing is not simply what these people do, but what they are.
A crackling collection of fishing yarns.