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OUTERBRIDGE REACH by Robert Stone

OUTERBRIDGE REACH

By Robert Stone

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0395938945
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Stone's best book since Dog Soldiers, and arguably even better. An Annapolis grad and Vietnam vet, now a sailboat salesman in Connecticut, the elegant and thoughtful Owen Browne finds himself enrolled in a grand adventure--sailing solo around the world--after his millionaire boat-maker boss, who was meant to make the sail, disappears under shady circumstances. A cynical documentary filmmaker, Strickland, will make a movie of this voyage--sure that Owen's WASP uprightness and natural election will unravel under the stress. It is to be partly a movie that Owen himself will shoot at sea, and that Strickland will augment with interviews with Owen's lovely but quietly desperate and alcoholic wife, Anne, as well as with the various corporate players in what Strickland sees as just another corporate-American public-relations show. Owen goes uneasily off to sea (he is a clumsy, only half- competent sailor, but Vietnam has left him with a reckoning with truth and courage still unfulfilled), and Strickland commences his film--and then everything goes a lot differently than expected. A book about self-reconfiguration, the novel becomes a constellation of collapse: the merely aesthetic fails the pure, elliptical Strickland as he falls in love with Anne (a character of startling human intricacy), whose infidelity is her own ethical malfunction. Owen's shoddily made boat starts coming apart in the terrible sea, but by then it hardly matters to him: Having been gradually shaken by revelation of the paradoxical "singularity" of the All, he fakes his positions and wanders amidst religious sublimity and mad self-cancellation. Stone never has written better. Plot seems the only element occasionally reached for here, sometimes too slow, too quickened- -but Stone's matchless dialogue and Melvillean sea-writing (and Melvillean themes: con-games, the death of myth) more than compensate. Ashen yet rich, prophetically unswerving but clement: a novel of true American literary significance.