A first collection of 12 stories, all of them subtle and all about fishing, linked also by their setting in upstate New York and their recurring characters. Slouka is also the author of a thoughtful nonfiction critique of the "digital revolution"(War of the Worlds, 1995). First is the longish "The Shape of Water," a precise reminiscence about a wharf, a lake, particular people, and a great fish the narrator's father caught—a lyrical memory of childhood. But the narrator, looking back from adulthood, has to admit that he may have imagined the event out of longing for just such a perfect day. After so poetic a beginning, the earthy "Genesis," about the flamboyant Simon Colby, who created the lake, is a delight. Colby, after losing an arm in the Spanish-American War, walks home from Georgia simply to see the country. When he arrives, he marches into a dance, picks out the prettiest girl, and proposes. Then he successfully promotes the lake and prospers on the tourist trade. In the beautiful, simple "Equinox," the death of a lineman trying to restore power is balanced by the rescue of a child who might have drowned—and yet in neither case, Slouka suggests, is fate anything but random. Finally, the narrator of —The Shape of Water— returns to the lake after an absence of many years and catches a great fish. Going off to attend a crisis, he leaves it on a trotline. When at last he returns, it's to find that some other lake animal has devoured his catch. Thus, Slouka returns to the themes of his dreamy beginning: memory dissolves into the shape of water, life is in some way always a mystery, some part of it "forever unknown to us." Nice. Slouka may be even too subtle, however, and he will suffer from the inevitable comparison with Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It, which is also about memory, loss, and, of course, fishing.
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