With ten books over a thirty-year span, Thomas McGuane has proven himself over and over again "a virtuoso . . . a writer of the first magnitude," as Jonathan Yardley wrote in the New York Times Book Review. "His sheer writing skill is nothing short of amazing." But he has devoted a couple decades more to another sustaining passion: the pursuit of most every sporting fish known to the angler's hopes and dreams.
The quarry--from trout and salmon to striped bass, massive tarpon, and chimerical permit--inhabit these thirty-three essays as surely as the characters of a novel, luring the author back to childhood haunts in Michigan and Rhode Island, and on through the stages of his life in San Francisco, Key West, and Montana; from the river in his backyard to the holiest waters of the American fishery, and to such far-flung locales as Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand, and Russia. As he travels with friends, with his son, alone, or in the literary company of Roderick Haig-Brown or Isaak Walton, the fish take him to such subjects as "unfounded opinions" on rods and reels, the classification of anglers according to the flies they prefer, family, and memory--right down to why fisherman lie. "His essay subjects are the stuff of epics," Geoffrey Wolff has written, "and his narratives can make you laugh out loud."
Infused with a deep experience of wildlife and the outdoors, dedicated to conservation, reverent and hilarious by turns or at once, The Longest Silence sets the heart pounding for a glimpse of moving water, and demonstrates what a life dedicated to sport reveals about life.
Novelist McGuane (Nothing but Blue Skies, etc.) celebrates everything about angling in this collection of 33 essays, which is certain to entertain fellow enthusiasts and fans of his writing. Any notion that fishing is humdrum is dispelled when McGuane describes eloquently his lifelong love affair with the sport, from the joys of tying flies and testing different rods, to sharing ghost stories and observational gems with fellow anglers, to absorbing quietly life's mysteries. He puts into historical and literary context the classic fishing writings of Izaak Walton and Roderick Haig-Brown. Throughout, McGuane's awe at nature's splendor shines in his prose. Releasing a trout after catching it becomes a moment of reverence: "Suddenly the fish was there, its spotted back breaking the surface, then up showering streamers of silver from the mesh of the net.... I stood in the river for a long while, holding him into the current and feeling the increasing strength in a kicking tail I could barely encompass with my grip. To the north, the Aurora Austral raised a curtain of fire in the cold sky. My trout kicked free and continued his journey to the Andes." Such moments emphasize McGuane's call for preserving the world's rivers from overdevelopment. Whether he's fishing for trout in a beaver pond in Michigan, salmon in Iceland or tarpon in Key West, McGuane casts not only his fishing line, but also his magic at turning a precise phrase and evoking a delightful image.