“An exquisite memoir about lost love and the sustaining grace of the sea.”—T.C. Boyle
The Maine dogfish are gone—fished to the brink of extinction. Gone too is Linda Jane, and with her the love and the subjunctive Maine that they might have shared. And what of that fabled “Old Maine”? Is it gone for good?
Dogfish Memory is the story of the search for an authentic Maine, a Maine of the past, whether historical or simply imagined, and a Maine of the present, one experienced by both permanent residents and seasonal ones—summerfolk. Joseph Dane is both. He has worked on commercial fishing boats as a local and he has sailed the coast for years like those who are “from away.” Dogfish Memory tells the story of how his often conflicting Maines are intertwined. Authentic Maine is elusive; stories and even photographs of a past Maine often contradict the memories of those who have lived through the changes they record. Dogfish Memory is thus the story of loss, the loss of a Maine recalled and imagined, and the loss of the love with which Maine is irrevocably associated.
In this meditative, unconventional memoir, Chaucer professor and Maine native Dane chronicles a lifetime of sailing his home coast. Dane's family has deep roots in the state, and he writes of his suspension between different versions of Maine the place as it may be and the place as it's perceived by those who "play Maine," a group that includes summer people, tourists, and even salty fishermen. In his wide-ranging reminiscences, Dane examines the ties of family and friendship, time passing, and above all, "Linda Jane," his inclusive name for the lovers who have drifted in and out of his life. Dane doesn't write chronologically; each section begins with a particular memory or place, then moves forward or backward in time. This device has its risks the currents are hard to follow at times. It also isn't immediately apparent that his "Linda Jane" is many women. However, Dane's approach offers unique perspectives. Many of the sections have a subtle intensity that elevates them to prose poems while the focus on sailing always anchors them. In discarding chronology, Dane is able to present life as we remember it. As he notes in one particularly cogent insight: "Imagined adventures... lead from known to known. Real adventure, by contrast, begins at a single point in the fog and ends at one."