Parks offers the postmodern adventures of an unlikely fisherman in this 20-year-old novel.
Bearing a 1995 copyright and set in President Ronald Reagan’s 1980s, the book erratically tells the story of a medley of down-and-out characters trying to earn some cash in the North Pacific fishing industry. Our hero (who, for a while, is simply known as “our hero”) wakes up in a field in Seattle, ready to live off the city’s accommodating hobo infrastructure. He soon learns that there’s money to be made farther north fishing the rough seas off the Aleutian Islands, where even vagabonds like him can find enough work to finance their debaucheries. But the riches of the sea attract other aimless wanderers: an assortment of characters (many similar to him) descends upon the Emerald City, looking for the American dream on the nation’s final, and quickly shrinking, frontier. The sea may seem a romantic place for a wayward soul, but the reality of the ocean proves to be something quite different. Chopped into shapeless chapters and illustrated with photocopied pictures reminiscent of self-published zines, the postmodern prose skips from image to image with little regard for readers’ comfort: “Heathens and carnies abounded everywhere, large dogs lounged casually, pool balls snapped back and forth at one another; a frenetic atmosphere was thus our hero inundated with.” The plot lurches forward with a drunken logic and an addict’s awareness of the passage of time. Its characters are drifters, hobos, sailors, transients: people for whom nothing matters so much as the next meal, high, or sexual encounter. Characters become difficult to distinguish, settings meld together, the point of view shifts without warning, and yet the writing dances on with such verve and loquacious joy that readers will be happy to keep turning the pages. This gonzo version of Moby-Dick turns out to be an engaging, idiosyncratic time capsule from the pre-Internet age: an era when the world, for both writers and tramps, was as expansive as they needed it to be.
An unapologetically manic and original novel about a drifter who heads for the Aleutian Islands in the 1980s.