on July 19, 2004
Linda Greenlaw landed the mother of all catches with her first book, The Hungry Ocean. Unfortunately, her subsequent work will always be compared with that initial gripping tale of longline swordfishing. As with her second book, The Lobster Chronicles, this new compendium of fishing tales, in All Fisherman Are Liars (AFAL) she provides an enjoyable, entertaining read, but nothing to compare to the can't-put-it-down original novel.
AFAL is an assemblage of perhaps a dozen good stories from fisherman of their time at sea. Far and away the most dramatic is the tale of David Marks, caught in a Caribbean hurricane in chapter four. The trouble is we don't get enough to fully satisfy; this one 'Shackleton-esque' story might have made an excellent novel itself. As with some of the other tales, it begins too fast and ends too soon.
Greenlaw uses a one-night gathering in Portland, Maine's Dry Dock Bar as a device to hold the stories together. Ostensibly she has a lunch date with old friend Alden Leeman, a salty ex-boss and longtime fishing friend, with whom she hopes to have a serious discussion about his health and impending retirement. Lunch turns into a continuous run of sea yarns from Linda, Alden and various other close friends in their fishing community. The clothesline on which she hangs the stories droops after a few chapters with the sogginess of her meeting's premise: her concern for Alden's health grows repetitive. We just want the next story, please.
Still, she brings color to her characters and the stories she has collected. Readers of her previous books will recognize some of the characters and boats. And the "Bar Snacks" with which she separates the chapters, feed us with amusing tidbits and observations, for instance, "Fibs and Exaggerations of Crew Members." An enjoyable summer read. Keep writing Linda.
on July 15, 2004
We first met Linda Greenlaw when she was introduced to us by Sebatsian Junger in The Perfect Storm. During that epic event she was a longline swordfishing captain on the Hannah Bowden and while the book was not about her, she played a significant role in the story. Later she introduced herself to us in her first book, The Hungry Ocean where she told us of her history and experiences in one of the most dangerous professions a person could chose. In her second book, The Lobster Chronicles, she has "retired" from swordfishing and is living with her parents on The Isle au Haut while she goes about the coastal business of lobstering with her Dad as her sternman and also goes about the business of adjusting her life to that of a successful author and recorder of the life and times of that place off the Maine Coast.
In her third literary effort, Lindaw recounts a very long "lunch" with her best friend, Alden Leeman. However, it is much more than that. Leeman is recovering from heart surgery, Greenlaw is worried about his insistence on continuing to be a commercial fisherman. As she points out, "Fishing is not what Alden does for a living, it is what he is." He is also stubborn, profane, a curmudgeon and a person you can count on when the sea is rough and the wind is coming from a bad quarter.
The "lunch" takes place in a Portland watering hole namewd the Dry Dock. During the course of it, which lasts until closing time, yarns are spun, stories swapped, lies told, memories churned and lessons are taught and sometimes ignored by those hearing them. The purpose of the lunch was to get Alden to slow down or even consider retiring from fishing. The result of it was a chatty and interesting book which those who have liked Greenlaws's writing will appreciate. It is a little thin, in my judgement for the price, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, for I did. She has been promising us a novel about the sea, drawn from her experiences for a couplke of books now. Whether or not that will happen is still in the wind, but her insights into the personal condition and the hearts of those who go down to the sea should be a wonderful framework for the effort, when it is ever undertaken.
on July 10, 2004
Linda Greenlaw (author of THE HUNGRY OCEAN and THE LOBSTER CHRONICLES) writes of her adventures at sea in such passionate, loving terms that she inspires fishing dreams in the most landlubberish of readers. This collection of "true fishermen's" stories was gathered in one prolonged lunch with her best friend Alden at Portland, Maine's Dry Dock Bar. The tales are separated by entertaining short extra pieces called "Bar Snacks."
Greenlaw approaches the lunch nervously thanks to her determination to coax Alden to retire from fishing because of his heart condition. She fears fishing will be the death of him, but she knows he won't accept her guidance in any remotely graceful manner. The author describes Alden as her mentor. He taught her countless lessons about fishing and about life, and gave Greenlaw her first experience as a ship's captain. However, Greenlaw adds affectionately, he has also given her the world's worst advice in all areas. Thanks to his financial counsel, she disregards student loans and credit card payments. She also credits Alden with teaching her countless bad habits. He's lacking in the social graces and has taken pains to never learn a thing from her. Yet Greenlaw adores Alden and calls him "the most amazing man I've ever encountered."
Before the subject of Alden's ill health is approached, a random comment from him launches Greenlaw into the first story, a musing on an ex-beau, Alan, and his incredibly poor luck as a fisherman. That bad mojo included wrecking a friend's motorcycle, mechanical problems with his boat, poor fishing, sunken ships, and being cheated. He was also lied to, stolen from, punched by a crew member, and on and on.
After Alan's story is finished, Greenlaw gathers her courage to introduce the subject of Alden's health as they order lunch. A storm threatens, which inspires Greenlaw to relate her tale at sea during "the storm of the century." At the time of the storm, in March 1993, Greenlaw was captain of a lobster fishing rig. She chose to ignore warnings to head to shore --- a decision she profoundly regretted when the storm hit.
Alden then gleefully one-ups Greenlaw's tale of terror. And so it goes, one story after the other. The lunch and storytelling last until after ten at night. The tales consist of horror stories and a ghost story, high adventure and low humor. In one yarn, a whore awakens to find herself at sea on a fishing expedition; in another, Greenlaw encounters a legendary and charming outlaw. All the stories celebrate the love between fishermen and the sea.
If I sometimes feel Greenlaw describes the technical details of fishing a little too thoroughly (a tangled wire is a tangled wire, and telling what it is, how it tangled and how to untangle it slows the story), I suspect others won't necessarily agree with me. At any rate, the book's yarns are so enthralling that any mini dissertation is a mere minor distraction. Indeed, Greenlaw's love for fishing and the sea invigorate her prose. Her beautifully compelling description of life at sea is so irresistible, it's all I can do not to head for the nearest fishing vessel and (try to) sign on when I read:
"The ocean has a way of swallowing your troubles, leaving you with a carefree feeling, while at the same time enforcing the notion that you are indeed the master of your own destiny. So, if you are making any headway at all toward a desired destination, you become so content that you dream of staying offshore forever.
The simplest things became astounding. The commonplace became remarkable."
The same can be said for ALL FISHERMEN ARE LIARS, a book that will hook readers from the launch and make them glad (...)