COME HELL ON HIGH WATER: A Really Sullen Memoir by Gregory Jaynes

COME HELL ON HIGH WATER: A Really Sullen Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A message in a bottle, in diary format, from the author's journey to the South Seas on a British-operated cargo ship with a Russian crew, a sling of senior citizens, and a growing sense of ennui. In the summer of 1995 Jaynes, a writer for Esquire and other magazines, turned 47, feeling ""devalued, like a peso."" Maybe it was a midlife crisis that set Jaynes in motion, or his feeling that becoming a grandfather, as he soon would, was ""a little premature."" In either event, suspecting a long sail might be the answer to what ailed him, he signed up for passage on a Russian icebreaker refitted for the tropics with a bulbous nose across her pointed bow. Venturing out of his vibrating cabin en route through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal to the Pacific, Jaynes sees ""a ship full of comedy"" at his disposal, but soon finds his shipmates for the most part humorless, the food ""unremarkable to terrible."" His favorite companions seem to be the officers, especially the captain, who is confessor and friend through Jaynes's eventual ""mini nervous breakdown"" in Papua New Guinea. The real trouble begins when Jaynes falls off the wagon between Christmas and New Year's--from Samoa, where his he-goat alter ego enjoys the favors of a prostitute, to Fiji, after which he retreats again into sobriety. Departing the ship for the day in the busy and dangerous port of New Caledonia, Jaynes realizes he's running from the very transport he ran away on. When his breakdown comes, it is mild, mercifully brief, really little more than an extended crying jag--leaving Jaynes and the reader to wonder whether it even happened. Arch, cynical, sullen indeed, Jaynes's salty conversation with himself is a comic, cautionary tale of the pitfalls of midlife sailing adventures.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: "North Point/Farrar, Straus & Giroux"