The decline of Florida’s fisheries becomes a microcosm of global environmental destruction in this manifesto.
Debut author Weinstock, a Key West psychiatrist, looks back on 60 years of sport fishing in the Keys (he reprints hundreds of photos of his magnificent catches) to document a marine tragedy. Among the developments he cites: dwindling stocks of scrawnier fish; once-plentiful species driven to the brink of extinction; once-pristine waters, from his backyard canal to verdant reefs and ocean stretches, fouled by pollution, development, noise, and muck. He fingers many culprits. Commercial overfishing, especially with gill nets, has “massacred” many species. Agricultural runoff in the Gulf of Mexico has fostered nasty bacterial growth. Jet skiers drive fish mad with their buzz-saw din. Shopping malls have paved over salt marshes that nurtured sea life. Worst of all are the giant cruise ships tearing up the ocean floor with the wash from their colossal propellers. There’s certainly enough material here—and vivid firsthand impressions—to support a serious study of marine environmental problems. But it often gets lost amid the author’s rambling jeremiad against everything else that’s threatening the planet, including a mine in Alaska, climate change, Tea Party Republicans, “the monster of unrestrained, uncaring, insensitive capitalism,” and, of course, President Donald Trump, whose election represented “a vote to kill organic life on our planet earth.”
And there’s more. Weinstock’s showily structured treatise—the 420-page text has a preface, a prologue, a “prelude,” and a 100-page epilogue capped with an “addendum”—still manages to be chaotic, often feeling like the meandering record of whatever the author happened to be thinking about at any given moment. There are epic fishing stories interrupted by digressions within digressions. There are reveries about Key West beach beauties and their “tanned, smooth, shining buttocks.” There are many anecdotes about the author’s psychiatric patients. These include a man who had a semipublic homosexual encounter at a porn shop and then had his soul healed by communing with dolphins and a woman who tried to kill herself and her children because she felt her breasts were too small (and then had her soul healed by augmentation surgery). All manner of odd, indigestible stuff gets hauled up in the dragnet, set on deck, ruminated over at length, and sketchily linked to global crises. Weinstock’s evident passion for and immersion in the aquatic world sometimes yield nature writing that is absorbing and even poetic, giving readers tidal flats with “pellucid water like flawless alpine air, an endless mass of glistening clarity pouring over the sand,” or a barracuda “suspended motionless” before “darting out at warp speed…like a female lion pinning its prey.” Unfortunately, his penchant for grand statements and cosmic dudgeon too often lapses into verbose bombast. (“Oil as an industry is cold, calculating, profit-driven and scrupulously devoid of conscience, a ravenous, voracious beast topping any great carnivore that ever stalked the earth, leaving behind unimaginable carnage.”) Weinstock would have been better served by less thunder and more attention to translating his considerable understanding of marine issues into a focused analysis.
A knowledgeable and heartfelt but bloated, directionless, and histrionic case for conserving fisheries.