A chronicle of a life in fishing by an author who seems like good company.

CASTING INTO THE LIGHT

TALES OF A FISHING LIFE

A tackle box full of fishing tips, memories, histories, anecdotes, taxidermy, and even recipes from an angler who found focus and purpose for her life among her fellow fishermen on Martha’s Vineyard.

Though the location suggests a life of leisure among the privileged elite, Messineo endured a hardscrabble upbringing and found herself among the outsider artistic community, working as a waitress and overindulging in drugs and alcohol. Fishing likely saved her life, or at least gave her one, though she doesn’t belabor the redemptive spirit as much as the title suggests. The author also doesn’t wax too poetic, at least once she moves beyond the introduction, where she describes fishing as “the meditative place similar to where gardeners go when they kneel in the dirt and dig their fingers in the soil….Standing in the surf, casting my lure toward the horizon, I feel like I am the woman I’m meant to be….My life becomes meaningful and I feel part of my surroundings.” Comparatively, the rest of the memoir is more nuts-and-bolts description: how and where the author learned to fish, how she went from feeling like an intruder to being accepted as a rare woman in a sport dominated by men, how the ethics and competition of fishing have changed—and how cheaters have occasionally rigged that competition and gotten away with it. Messineo writes about lucky sweaters and about how unlucky bananas are for fishermen. She touches on her marriages and the son she and her husband have adopted, and she treads lightly on the schizophrenia of her fishing mentor, who eventually succumbed to suicide. Whereas many fishing memoirs are often more literary, turning that time with nature into a spiritual pilgrimage and the art of fishing into a metaphor for life, this is more about fishing itself, written for readers who like to fish or think they might like to learn.

A chronicle of a life in fishing by an author who seems like good company.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4764-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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