An unlikely match of subject, author, and series (this is a volume in the Library of Contemporary Thought) puts art critic and historian Hughes (American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, 1997, etc.) at the other end of a fishing pole. Hughes brings the same mixture of insight, self-deprecating whimsy, and caustic wit to the subject of angling that he has put to good use in art criticism and polemics. During his Australian boyhood, he was an avid fisherman, and he has retained that enthusiasm for "a good deal of my life. . . not with enough dedication to qualify as "expert," however you might define that." But his dedication to fishing has enriched his inner life in ways that are unexpectedly reflected in his "day job": like novelist Craig Nova (see page 1205), Hughes has found fishing "an education in seeing and discriminating," in learning to read the subtleties of water in motion and natural phenomena in the unending search for clues to where the fish are biting. More than that, however, A Jerk on One End is a discerning and clever history of the cultural and class implications of fishing, followed by a passionate and convincing, if brief, survey of the dreadful ecological effects of industrial fishing as practiced around the world today. Hughes is wonderfully candid about the seeming contradictions in the ethics of his sport, so much so that his argument with the factory fishing mavens is made that much more compelling. A thoughtful and witty little volume whose readership should extend beyond the fly-fishing purist. Read full book review >
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