The mystique and adventure of deep-sea fishing color a family memoir reminiscent of A River Runs Through It
Fred Waitzkin's moving account of fatherhood is still imprinted on the minds of those who read the book or watched the film Searching for Bobby Fischer. Now he reaches back to his own childhood to write a sweeping family saga of love and betrayal.
Fred's father Abe is a brilliantly talented salesman, a sickly man whose relentless will drives him to succeed. He marries an eccentric abstract artist and thereby forges an alliance with her wealthy father. The marriage founders, and Fred's world is threatened by his mother's need to realize herself as an artist, by his father's declining health, by duplicity, and by revenge. In order to keep head above water while family and fortune threaten to go down around him, Fred fishes. In scenes that range from Great Neck, Long Island, to the boats of drug smugglers on Bimini to the marlin-rich waters of the Gulf Stream, he sinks boats and battles thousand-pounders, believing that fishing is the answer to almost all problems.
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His father, Abe, was a superb salesman who parlayed personal charm and client loyalty into success despite a series of debilitating ailments. His mother, Stella, was a painter who numbered among her friends Jackson Pollock and Louise Nevelson; she despised the affluent lifestyle her husband cultivated and viewed his taking a job with her father's lighting-fixture company as a betrayal. Before and after their divorce, writes Fred Waitzkin, "Mother and Dad warred within me." His unsparing memoir depicts a larger war within the family waged by grandparents, aunts and uncles, and his own brother, who fled from their parents' troubles into a bohemian, self-destructive life. Young Fred embraced orthodox Judaism and "cultivated [his] conventional side" to emulate Abe, yet he also dreamed of being a writer. Through it all, fishing--beloved by Abe, despised by Stella--remained his escape and his comfort. Waitzkin, who proved with Searching for Bobby Fischer that he could use the particulars of an avocation to illuminate the emotional needs it assuaged, does the same here with wonderfully evocative details about fishing. A closing scene chronicling a 1998 hunt for tuna with his wife and two children tentatively suggests that this generation of Waitzkins has found some measure of the happiness that eluded Abe and Stella. --Wendy SmithAbout the Author:
Fred Waitzkin, who fishes regularly in the Bahamas, is the author of Searching for Bobby Fischer and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Motorboating and Sailing. He lives in New York City and Martha's Vineyard.
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