The New York Times’ former executive editor, fired in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal, ruminates on fly-fishing, love, successes and failures in the newspaper game, and hooking and fighting and losing a marlin.
Raines, who has written on Fishing-and-Life before (Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis, 1993), describes fishing here as “the pursuit of the unpredictable.” Woven in among the fish tales are stories about his boyhood, his career in journalism and the courtship of his second wife, which ended his years as “a romantic freelancer.” Raines also tosses off asides on everything from baseball to the Bushes. Whether writing about fishing near Christmas Island or in Russia, he always returns to issues of pain, gain and loss, probity and mendaciousness, friendship and love. Raines comes across as self-deprecating and learned, fierce and confident; his writing is as brisk and bracing as the early-morning air on a remote salmon stream. The Blair episode, which dominates the memoir’s last third, eats at him. He says he never saw the memos and e-mails from others wondering about the young reporter, never was part of the decisions that led to Blair’s surprising promotion. When the scandal broke, Raines was determined to put the whole story before the Times’ readers—and was bemused when some of the fingers pointed his way. His critics declared that what he didn’t know he should have known. And so on.
Eloquent meditations on fishing interlaced with piercing explorations of the inner workings of the newspaper business.