SPARTINA by John Casey


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Dick Pierce is a Rhode Island fisherman, of only so-so financial success. He's been building a magnificent boat by himself for years, and can't foresee its completion unless he can come up with a lot more money than his meager catches allow. Yet money is all around him, in the form of the rich summer people who vacation in the village and in the form of his drug-running fellow boatmen--salts who've become, in Dick's thinking, "players." Dick is a nonplayer, but he has sons to send to school and a mortgage to pay. It is Dick's ragged attempt to become a "player" that provides Casey (An American Romance, 1977; Testimony and Demeanor, 1979) with the character-depth of this book; and the first form this attempt takes is odd--an affair with the local Natural Resources officer, Elsie: high-born, of the social elite, but herself iconoclastic and hewing to unconventional private codes. Casey, a fine writer, gets off two stunning boat chapters--one about fishing for swordfish with aid of a spotter plane, the other about Dick taking out his finally completed dream-boat in the midst of a melodramatic hurricane--but the book's thematic burden remains (as was the case with An American Romance) an inter-class love affair, a matter of sex versus social standing. As such, the book resembles a late-phase John O'Hara novel: plot and setting are incidental to the erotic combat. Ultimately, though, the book is too thinly textured to make more of itself than this, reading like a fleshed-out novella, slightly wheel-spinning. Casey is a great practitioner of fictional density, but the contrasts here come off as disappointingly basic.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1989
ISBN: 394-50098-9
Publisher: Knopf
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