A bold and eloquent work in which New York Times editorial page director Raines (Whiskey Man, My Soul Is Rested—both 1977) looks at his obsession with fly fishing as cause, symptom, and remedy for the woes of middle-aging. While he tries not to ridicule the men's movement, Raines—who grew up in Alabama fishing the Redneck Way—notes that many men are already ``hard-wired to all the raw masculine force [they can] handle.'' There's a need, he says, for an antidote to the anxiety, alienation, and sadness that's been ``a secret silent force among men in America''—but the antidote needn't have ``become an industry with its own speakers' bureau.'' A man who's fished with Presidents as well as with his own two sons, Raines ``measured'' the fish in his life on his 40th birthday when his then-wife presented him with a photo album of the passion that had endured since age seven, when he caught 20 crappies from a bridge near his hometown. Raines admitted that he'd been, at best, a ``middling'' fisherman. Worse, he saw himself as ``a middle-aged man in a gray suit who trudged to the White House press room'' to do what ``felt like stenography,'' rather than as the great novelist he'd set out to be. He also saw ``the black dog on his trail,'' conjured up by the death of his friend and mentor Dick Blalock, who'd showed him fishing as ``a way of living easefully in the world of nature.'' Raines's wonderful descriptions of streams, people, and fish; his perceptive, practical approach to the literature of fishing; and his commentary on manhood and male-bonding, from Hemingway to Robert Bly—all serve to sharpen the intensity and perspective of his journey through divorce, affairs, family problems, sickness, and death. A profound work that will hook readers from the start.
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