GUS OPENSHAW’S WHALE-KILLING JOURNAL by Keith Thomson

GUS OPENSHAW’S WHALE-KILLING JOURNAL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A blogger-slash-whaler goes hunting for his prey in the Caribbean—where the waters are shark-infested, the crew is always on the verge of mutiny and absurd plot twists arrive with every other paragraph.

Thomson’s raucous comedy of errors is the tale of Gus Openshaw, a worker at a cat-food cannery who spends his summer hot on the trail of the “blubbery bastard” who swallowed his wife, child and right arm. Openshaw obsessively details his pursuit on his blog, and he’s a little surprised to learn that his readership knows of other obsessive, one-limbed whalers. (“I’ve been calling [the whale] ‘Dickhead,’ ” he writes. “Everybody always laughs and says that’s a witty reference. Hell if I know why.”) Joining him on the trip are a short-tempered, murderous cook, a deckhand who’s addicted to hull cleaner, the appropriately named Stupid George (who at one point heaves a harpoon handle-first) and Flarq, a Queequeg-like deckhand who draws “scrimshaws” of the events in the story (illustrations appear throughout). Thomson constantly subverts the narrative by concocting increasingly ridiculous turns of events—Openshaw’s sued for libeling Dickhead on his blog, after which he falls for the Princess of Whales, the ruler of a small whale-worshipping island who, in turn, happens to work for a black-market arms dealer who appears at crucial moments with, say, a prosthetic arm, or an F-15 fighter jet. Yet Thomson never loses his grip on the plot—he works hard to make the story hang together logically; the brief, blog-length chapters, meanwhile, keep the jokes punchy and entertaining. If Moby-Dick was a richly symbolic work about the whole of human experience, this is just an assortment of riffs on adventure tales, love stories and human idiocy in general. Thomson is no Melville, but there’s no question who’s the better gag-writer.

Dumb fun, smartly imagined.

Pub Date: March 24th, 2006
ISBN: 1-59692-172-2
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2006




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