Robert Hughes's memoir of the fishing life begins like a lazy day on the water. A few observations on the sport's history, a look at the literature, even some comical reminiscences about trying to harpoon tuna and battle tarpon. But then Hughes returns to the piers of his native Sydney. It is there that the boy who would turn into the preeminent art critic of his generation began educating his eyes: "To fish at all, even on a humble level," he writes, "you must notice things: the movement of the water and its patterns, the rocks, the seaweed.... Time on the pier taught me to concentrate on the visual, for fishing is intensely visual, even--perhaps especially--when nothing is happening. It is easy to look, but learning to see is a more gradual business, and it sneaks up on you unconsciously, by stealth."
Hughes has made seeing his life's pursuit, and despite claims of mediocrity in angling, his grasp of the larger picture is clear. In this slim volume's concluding essay, "Troubled Waters," he decries the ravages of commercial fishing, reasserts our need to respect creatures unlike ourselves, and provides an emphatic reminder that fishing's real joys are in the catching--not the killing. "We have no moral right to preserve only cuddly tourist attractions like the koala," he stresses. "Wildness, otherness, and dread, embodied in living creatures, also have their claims." --Jeff Silverman [via]