HARBOR OF REFUGE by Stephen Jones


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The literary culmination of a year spent on lighthouse duty in the Coast Guard some 20 years ago, as developed from the author's own journal and tempered by the ongoing littoral rhapsodies (per Backwaters and From Cape May to Montauk) that Jones pursues when not teaching at the University of Connecticut. A failed volunteer bugler in boot camp, Jones acquired enough of the misfit aura to receive Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, at the mouth of Delaware Bay, as his initial duty station--there to be intermingled with the maladjusted types the Coast Guard had carefully weeded out (in an era when most of the remaining lighthouses were being converted to automatic operation). With Jones as its Ishmael, this stationary Pequod sits two miles from shore, as ships pass day and night, with its crew--each in his own way--pursuing the white whale of military bureaucracy. Fondly and humorously, Jones celebrates the romance of lighthouse-keeping, playing the isolation-induced paranoias of the profession against genuinely poetic visions of the sea and man's place in going forth upon it. The characters--from the self-elected recluses to the Gilbert & Sullivan military types--are all sharply limned, complete to bits of pungent dialogue. Of men and lighthouses, and the inner workings of each, in equal sustaining measure.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1981
Publisher: Norton