Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Baseball book preaches to Red Sox ‘Faithful’

Early on, while the snow still flew in New England, writers Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan had summer on their minds. The two were ardent Red Sox fans, which is akin to saying, at least until last year, that they believed in futility.

Hell must have frozen over last year, for the prayers of the Red Sox fans were answered in dramatic fashion. That championship season, from the promise of spring training through the blossoming of a World Series champion,is chronicled in "Faithful," ($26, Simon and Schuster)

Not since the ‘war to end all wars’ ended in 1918 had the Red Sox won the World Series. Yet a combination of enduring belief and a good crop of off-season acquisitions by the Socks left King, O'Nan and a host of Red Sox nation diehards looking toward the promised land.

"We knew we had a good team, with our offense and adding (pitcher Curt) Schilling," said O'Nan during a phone interview. "And we got better and better as the season went on."

Nevertheless, that's hindsight. At one point during last year’s run, O'Nan, King and their fellow fans suffered a serious summer of discontent.

Here's how O'Nan described one tortuous night in that summer of pain:

"Sitting there by myself in the dark house, facing the screen, I have nothing to distract myself from the terrible baseball I'm seeing. There's no one to commiserate with or to help absorb the loss; it's all mine. We've hit the ball well enough and while our outfield isn’t close to their cannon-armed trio of Jose Guillen, Raul Mondesi and Vladi Guererro, we've fielded decently, but our pitching had been horrendous. All three pitchers we ran out there tonight got their butts whipped...It’s one o'clock, only a three-hour game, though with all the scoring it feels like four, four and a half. I feel crappy and blue. I feel like I've earned the day off tomorrow."

If, as they say, success has many fathers but failure is an orphan, imagine tens of thousands of orphaned souls among the Red Sox fans during those days. For many, wrote King and O'Nan, it looked like more of the same, another season doomed to end in whimpering futility.

But for the two writers, their collaboration helped make the worst of the season more than endurable.

O'Nan said he basically would write about every game, while King would compile about a month's worth of notes and material.

What he got from the experience, he said, is some of King's ability to encapsulate details.

"Concision," he said. "Steve is good at working in miniature, knowing how to describe events that then take on a greater significance...."

The two had become regular correspondents long before last season, but the book idea was born after the two finally met for a game.

"We had been e-mailing, and I proposed that we get together for a game," recalled O'Nan. "You know how it is, sometimes after you've been e-mailing someone and you meet them, you don’t always hit it off. But we hit it off pretty well; we're both huge baseball fans. And Steve is very much an average Joe."

Horror fiction, at which King has established himself as a master, was once the preserve of the titled and wealthy. Lord Dunsany, the author credited with developing the horror novel, was himself a peer. Dracula, of course, was a count. But King rose to fame by writing about everyman and his experience with the supernatural. Likewise, O'Nan, particularly in his "The Circus Fire," writes from the bottom up, telling how the average person feels when slapped by catastrophe.

That common touch is essential to "Faithful," for without the book is reduced to being a collection of musings from two extraordinarily literate guys. Their passion for baseball and their unpretentious manner, however, buoys the book, making the endless e-mail exchanges and the sometimes-confusing changes in narrators easy to digest.

O'Nan, however, is quick to disavow one section of the book that comes across as pretty snotty, his description of Ft. Myers, where the Red Sox play winter ball:

"...Fort Myers is an endless grid of strip malls and stoplights, and everyone drives like they’re either having a heart attack or trying to find an emergency room for someone who is. We fly past Mattress World, Bath World, Rug World. It's Hicksville, Long Island with palm trees and pelicans.”

But before beaning the Beantown backer, consider this: O'Nan said that the majority of material about Fort Myers, from the shrimp festival his family enjoyed to his happy gabbing with concessionaires and others at the city's two ball-parks, was cut by an editor.

That may be, but it’s a good thing there’s no winter ball in Port Charlotte – I’d hate to see him describe some of the cultural attractions and driving patterns along our stretch of the Tamiami Trail.

However, this is a book about being a fan, about loving a sport that has transcended its business nature to become a national icon

And what better fan is there than one who remains, through the good seasons and bad, “Faithful?”

James M. Abraham, a syndicated book columnist, can be reached at jabrajot@hpotmail.com.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004



The farmer's wife
sits alone with
woodstove and cat
the only warmth

voices keep her
company telling
her favorite stories
over and over

pictures, many misty
from tears or faulty memory
play movies in her mind-
almost eighty year's worth

outside, the barn
and building go to
pieces, the hay baler
rusts away in the field

the pasture seeds
to popular
and pine, the only
crop are goldenrods

the barn a maze
of spider's webs
across the walkways
not trod nor will be.

Henry Burt Stevens
6400 Taylor Rd Lot
108 Punta Gorda FL 33950

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Here’s a history that won’t put you to sleep

Many of us are familiar with George Santayana’s comment that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. Well, that may or may not be true but one thing is certain; many of us are shortchanged when it comes to remembering our past because of the way that history has been taught to us.

That’s not just the fault of teachers. History books, largely, are as sere as the Sahara, and just as salubrious when it comes to enriching one’s understanding of the past.

I consider myself lucky to have come across an amazing book, stacked unfortunately and undeservedly in the used book bin at the Murdock Library in Port Charlotte. “Crucible of War,” by Fred Anderson, is one of those remarkable history books that should be in great demand.

Instead, it suffers an ignominy no good volume should endure.

How good a history is it? Read this:
“As the combatants’ adrenaline levels subsided and the wounded men moaned, the translation went badly. The letter had to be read a second time, and Washington turned to take it back to his own translator. As he withdrew Tanaghrisson stepped up to where Jumonville lay. Tu n’es pas encore mort, mon pere, he said; Thou art not yet dead, my father. He raised his hatchet and sank it into the ensign’s skull, striking until he had shattered the cranium. Then he reached into the skull, pulled out a handful of viscous tissue, and washed his hands in Jumonville’s brain.”

In that brief description of violence lies the essence of Anderson’s achievement. The event was a small skirmish in a clearing on what was then the western English colonial border of North America. The “Washington” described was indeed our commander in chief, present at his most successful battle and most embarrassing (and deadly) diplomatic faux pas.

The deliberateness of the Indian’s decision to brain the Frenchman spoke less of savagery than of a well-thought out political strategy. Moreover, as for poor Jumonville, he could rightly be considered the first casualty of the French and Indian War, more commonly known overseas as the Seven Years War.

So what’s the point? The Seven Years War was the first world war, a conflict that took place just before the American Revolution that actually set loose the passions that would culminate in that successful struggle for independence.

In Europe, Africa, Asia and South America the end of the global conflict would mark almost no change, as the rival empires of France and England transferred small parcels of territory to settle accounts. However, in North America, the end of the war marked the end of the French ascendancy, putting to rest any chance that we today would wind up speaking French instead of the Queen’s lingo.

The French and Indian War is now largely forgotten, but Anderson, through his exciting writing and fine research, has more than done his part to restore this neglected conflict to its place of importance. Just as the Mexican War of the 1840s spawned and trained the leaders who would fight the Civil War, so did the French and Indian War launch the careers of Revolutionary War heroes. Washington, of course, offers the best example of this. He was a big, rangy young striver who saw the military as a short cut to respectability. The Virginia governor ordered Washington to assemble some men and go off into the northwest, when the French were making inroads. The issue was largely a development tussle, one we today could see acted out at a county commission meeting. The difference was that Gov. Dinwiddie of Virginia, to mollify his rich friends whose property was threatened by the Indians, was able to send armed men, led by Washington, to protect property rights.

Washington’s failure to rein in Tanaghrisson was taken by the French as a cassus belli, thus launching a conflict both the English and King Louis’ forces were waiting to join.

But, as Anderson points out, those two nations weren’t the only players on the great board of North America. Indians, whose ancestors had watched the French and British bear fruit and multiply in the New World, were a major third player. The Europeans with the most Indian allies had the advantage.

So Tanaghrisson was playing his card when he set up the ambush that led to his braining of Jumonville, announcing to Washington and all interested that he was on the English side.

Anderson’s victory is that he is able to make this all sound a lot more interesting than I can, and he does so while paying homage to the fine vistas and pristine waters that once spanned our continent. The lyric nature of his descriptions are as out of place in a history book as the deft way he surveys the times of which he writes.

There are no good wars, but the beauty and romance of the French and Indian War still echoes in our culture. From “Evangeline,” Longfellow’s weepy poem about an exiled French community, to the release several years ago of the movie “Last of the Mohicans,” the affairs of those tumultuous years still inform us.

Anderson paints the period in all its glory and color, offering even the most unhistorically-minded reader with a grasp of a time of great importance. It’s no accident that the book is so accessible.

After all, Anderson states in the opening pages that:

“Few reveries haunt history professors more insistently than the dream of writing a book accessible to general readers that will also satisfy their fellow historians’ scholarly expectations.
At least that dream has haunted me, and I must admit that I wrote this book because of it.”

If that is a dream of historians, you wouldn’t know it from the majority of what’s written about our past. And if that dream was indeed Anderson’s, then it’s more than safe to say that he has achieved that goal in his compelling “Crucible of War.”

James M. Abraham, a syndicated book columnist, can be reached at jabrajot@hotmail.com.

Monday, December 13, 2004


When the hatchet is mightier than the pen

It's not as if Seth Mnookin's evisceration of former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines was undeserved. In "Hard News" ($25.95, Random House) Mnookin describes Raines' downfall in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal and attempts to define the career-ending catastrophe's impact on American journalism.

Raines appeared to be every bit as arrogant and impressed with himself as Mnookin paints him. A sort of minor Robert Penn Warren or Shelby Foote, Raines saw himself as a modern throwback to those elegant and erudite men of letters. After having published several books and worked his way from The St. Petersburg Times to the ear of New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzburger, Raines soon found himself at the top of the American journalistic mountain.

But his stay as headman at the New York Times was filled with conflict. Mnookin gives readers a virtual turn at the office water cooler by describing the office gossip that Raines' autocracy engendered. He describes in minute detail how Raines manipulated others on way up the corporate ladder. He reveals in incremental detail how Raines favored friends and dogged dissenters.

All that is good journalism, and speaks to what's right about our profession and journalists like Mnookin. The former Newsweek writer is smart enough to know that he has to tell a compelling story to keep readers hooked long enough for him to make his point.

He did that and more, but he didn't stop there. And that's where the book began to lose its texture. From a seamlessly woven bit of fine investigative journalism, the book careens into a well-modulated screed against Raines.

And a screed, however well composed, is still a strident, shrill message that grates on one's ears.
Sure, Raines is not a nice guy. His preoccupation with himself and his prerogatives, as Mnookin deftly reports, caused the Times to falter. But, as Mnookin documents but fails to credit fully, other factors both in the newspaper and beyond conspired to create the crisis. After reading "Hard Times," however, one is left prepared to blame Raines for everything from the Blair scandal to empty towel dispensers in the New York Times washroom.

Mnookin fails to consider how he and others in journalism have distanced themselves from people. One sobering quote I remember from the Blair mess was that uttered by a relative of Jessica Lynch, the GI ambushed, then rescued during the Iraqi War. Blair lied about having interviewed the man, who told reporters later that he thought all journalists made up quotes.

Mnookin portrays the good guys at the New York Times as hard-working, ill-recompensed ink-stained wretches. He'd be right if he were describing the professional antecedents of today's reporters and editors. But New York Times journalists are extremely well paid, are college graduates, and spend much of their time in an environment charged by ideas. In short, they're a minority at variance with the way most Americans live.

Consequently, Times journalists and their peers across the country have lost faith in their ability to connect with their readership. The result? At worst, low-cost journalism that panders to what editors think readers want, sly partisanship in a partial press, or just poorly written reports that highlight the unimportant attributes and underplay or ignore the essence of story.

Raines walked into that situation, promising to find ways to reconnect. Hence, he was less the cause of the scandal than one of many agents of an accident waiting to happen.

In Mnookin’s rush to establish Raines as the reason for the New York Times' slip from grace (and good journalism), he fails to flesh out key players. Blair himself; Rick Bragg, Raines' main man who was later immolated in his mentor's barbecue, and other major actors in the Times Square agony were drawn but not fully illustrated.

Instead, it appears obvious that he was nicest to those who told him the most stuff. For example, there are story lines that span the book describing the persecution, endurance, leadership and eventual promotions of Times employees such as Jill Abramson or Glenn Kramon, both of whom figure prominently in Mnookin's telling of the tale.

Raines was no special monster; more like a bully too big for his britches. We've all dealt, or deal, with bullies, be they the guys who took our lunch money or the bosses who insist it be their way or the highway. Mnookin, however, writes of Raines as if he were a latter-day Grendel, some dread decapitator who destroys fine newspapers. But this isn't Beowulf we're talking about here, just a story about a knucklehead boss who blew it.

Near the book's end, Mnookin is attending a memorial gathering for an esteemed writer and editor who had been killed during the Iraqi War. Earlier, as Mnookin describes in terms of post-industrial shock and outrage, Raines had refused to shake his hand. So in the book's closing passage, Mnookin turns the dagger once more.

"I watched him walk toward the store's escalator with his wife. After a few moments, he disappeared from sight. Behind me, Mike Kelly's friends, colleagues, and admirers were chatting happily. They were sharing bittersweet stories of a beloved writer and editor in chief, a man whose career was cut tragically short years before its time."

James M. Abraham, a syndicated book columnist, can be reached at jabrajot@hotmail.com.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Manfather by Henry B Stevens


Distant by years
the way misty as
Bellows Falls falls
vaguely remembering
the antique brick building
that I couldn't now
find my way inside
where was the room
your mother's bed
and how did it go
I don't yet know
but this I remember well
the world must now
accomodate through my efforts
you, your mother, and myself.

This is a brand new poem. I'm going to post all my new poems as they come along. I encourage readers of this blog to use the comment button below and tell me what you think of the poem and what suggestions you have for the poem. I appreciate any comments you can make for me. They help me in my writing. Thanks, Henry


Essay by James Abraham

Two Peace River Center for Writers members, co-founder Carol Mahler and local poet Henry Stevens, are at the heart of a controversy involving "Victory," a six-stanza poem about power and conflict that won first place in the Florida Writers Association competition.

Mahler is the featured reader in a CD and video commissioned by Stevens which features several of the poet's works from his first chapbook, also titled "Victory."

The recording of the poem, in which a somber Mahler stridently recites the lyrics against a stark backdrop as cataclysmic music plays in the background, was shown as part of the ceremonies at the recent Florida Writers Association banquet. Almost three weeks after the event Dan Griffith, an FWA member who is seeking the presidency of the organization, wrote Stevens asking the poet to "...include your statement of how 'Victory' should be interpreted."

Stevens said outgoing FWA President Caryn Suarez, whose term ends Dev. 31, had also been approached by Griffith. He worries that Griffith and others like him could be attempting to practice not only prior restraint, by questioning poets whose work is considered politically incorrect, but also future censorship by restricting subjects of a religious or political nature in works affiliated with the FWA.

Griffith, however, said his concern is that the violent nature of the poem offended many at the banquet. He is also concerned that some may take the poem's imagery as an endorsement of religious bigotry and intolerance.

"It reminds me of a Christian jihad," Griffith said Dec. 2 in a telephone interview. "I don't know if that's what the poet intended. I kind of think that that's...opposed to his way of thinking."

Griffith's letter read, in part:
"As incoming President of the Florida Writers Association, I was called upon for several hours after our recent Convention Banquet to explain your poem "Victory". Association members, public guests, and workshop presenters asked my opinion at various times and places that Saturday evening. Not having read your poem but aware of your positive reputation, I could only respond to the poem descriptions in general positive terms. The next morning, I was again interviewed for my opinion and was shown your poem. I must confess I do not understand its intended interpretation, but anticipate additional statement requests.

"Could you sell me by post a copy of your poetry book and perhaps include
your statement of how "Victory" should be interpreted?"

Griffith said he wanted documentation of what Stevens intended when he wrote the poem.
"I'm very concerned about this," he said. "I want to have something in my pocket to say, 'this is what it means, it's just a tempest in a teapot.'"

Stevens said he has no intention of explaining himself.

"Since when do artists include instructions and statements on how their
work should be interpreted, like the printed instructions on the box
of Jell-O or a box of pudding?" Stevens asked rhetorically.

James Abraham is a syndicated book reviewer and free lance writer.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Fisherman hooks reader with insights beyond the water

Away up in the hills of southern Germany, where men still wear lederhosen and the shade of Adolf Hitler still casts an ominous presence, there's a glistening stream running fresh and clear down a mountain gorge. There, in sight of the Eagle's Nest Hitler's supporters built for him high in the Berchtesgaden Alps, Norm Zeigler once found a peace of mind some men may know, but never learn to articulate.

Now, on a Christmas-shopping Saturday afternoon in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, Zeigler sits, knotting a fishing lure known as a fly and waiting as patiently as only a fisherman can.

A crippling illness destroyed the life he once led, a time of chasing coy and mighty trout through the high country of Europe. Now, he sits in the bookstore awaiting customers at a book signing for "Rivers of Shadow, Rivers of Sun," (22.95, Countrysport Press), the distillation of those bracing baptisms in the trout streams of the Old Country.

Zeigler, a former reporter for the European version of Stars and Stripes, had a dream job that enabled him to traverse Europe regularly. He always carried along tackle, and fished at many of the continent's best trout streams. The book is a travelogue of trout fishing, filled with the sort of technical insider's stuff followers of the sport would appreciate and respect. But it reads like a novel and is invested with a keen moral insight, perhaps engendered by "Rivers of Shadows," most disturbing scene:

"For nine months my health had been broken, and I had been barely able to function. But lately I had made a small rally, and I was determined to get back on the water. I had not fished in nearly a year, and I missed it so much that the longing was in my bones. Nearly every night I dreamed about standing in a trout stream...
By early December I was bed-bound, slipping deeper into a black hole of debilitating illness that seemed to have no bottom...For the first time, I thought I might never return to the United States. Or that I would return in a box.
I had always known that, as much as I loved Europe, it was not and never would be my homeland. I could not, would not die in a foreign land."

Months prior to his breakdown, Zeigler had been bitten by a tick. He contracted chronic Lyme's Disease. For five years he spent most of his life in bed, until a rigorous diet of antibiotics helped stabilize his condition. Now, he said, he has about five bad days out of a year, rather than months of weariness. The disease robbed him and his family of five years. It destroyed Zeigler's dream of eventually retiring to the big country of Montana; doctors suggested the salubrious shores of Sanibel as more restorative. But Zeigler's brush with death also caused him to sharpen his perspective on life.

"I had been so sick, in and out of the hospitals," he said. "And you know, it gets to a point..."

He paused, then shook his head.

"It was very hard on the kids," he said of his children, a boy and girl ages 16 and 19. "I missed a lot of the formative things in their life..."

Zeigler thought a moment, then smiled.

"Getting sick helped me to make it a better book," he said. "It gave me a different perspective on life and what was important. It gave me a lot of time to reflect."

That reflection is evident in the book, as Zeigler invests both works of nature and the actions of people with morning gleaned from his own close encounter with death. He appreciates what many take for granted. The evocative drawings by Michael Simon illuminates the book, but Zeigler's prose offers details which render what he describes as clear as a photograph. Here's how he describes a simple search for a good fishing stream.

"On a late-spring afternoon, the river between Broto and Sarvise is a mercurial ribbon under a platinum sun. After my hard-fishing morning, Dave and I had enjoyed a leisurely lunch. Then we had driven down to Broto, crossed a steel bridge to the west bank, and parked at the edge of the gravel road near the river...Here the Ara was a series of swift riffles and mini-rapids. Viewed from atop the riverside berm, it looked problematic but not unfeasible. But when I stepped it to cross, I found the water deeper than it looked and l knew I would be risking a dunking to wade it.

I could see that, about two hundred yards downstream, the river flattened out, so I climbed back up the bank and started walking. The ground became thick with brush and rose in a small hammock as I followed the curve of the river."

In that passage one sees the duality of Zeigler's nature. The series of declarative sentences are deceptive at first, but work to build a coherent and at times eloquent word picture of both places and people. The repetition of the words describing metal, for example, help conjure up a prospect of a shiny, hard sun, the swift and sparkling currents of a swift river, and the occasional marriage of man's work and that of nature. He admires the beauty of the landscape, even as he almost scientifically determines how best to fish it.
Zeigler, a tall, well-built man of 56 with burnished umber hair, writes in a small corner office with windows lining two sides. Although one would expect a fisherman of Zeigler's caliber to have artifacts of his avocation throughout the home, his office is the only place where such implements and art abound. Near the computer sits a wicker creel. To the left of the doorway is a rod. On a lintel aft of the computer area are two stuffed fish, one a replica. The striped bass on the left, however, is real.

"That's a fish my father caught," Zeigler said. The author enjoyed a close relationship with his late father, whom Zeigler says gave him the perspective that informs his book.

"Most of it came from my upbringing," he said of the tolerance that drives his interactions throughout the book. "I never heard my dad say bad things about people; he never criticized people based on how much money they had or whatever."

Zeigler's father owned a plumbing and heating business in Cape Cod.

"I knew early on that I wanted to write," Zeigler said. "My dad didn't push me in any direction. I was allowed to do what I wanted."

And, as the author describes in the prologue to "Rivers of Shadows," he knew early on that he wanted to fish.

"You could say that I was born to fish. When my mom was pregnant with me she spent weekends and many evenings with my dad on Baker's Pond, a glacial kettle hole just below the elbow of Cape Cod. They used an old rowboat, gliding along the edges of the drop-off and casting spinners and spoons to bass, pickerel and sunfish..."

"Some feelings are in the blood and I wonder if I sensed the motion of the boat on the water, the gentle waves lapping, the thrill of the hunt, the changing of the seasons, and the coming of the warm sun after the bleak, gray winter."

Zeigler loves his kids, as evidenced by clues such as the inclusion of their names, along with that of his wife Libby, on the book's dedication page. But he smiles ruefully when he thinks of how they've both failed to inherit his love for a line and the water.

"My son is into weightlifting," he said. "And my daughter is into whatever teenage girls are into."

His wife Libby, with glossy dark hair and an open smile, comes into the couple's small house, proceeded by a shaggy dog who proceeded to sniff a visitor. Later, Bill a friend from Montana, shows up. He had been visiting with his wife and in-laws in St. Petersburg, and had decided to drive down to check out Zeigler.

He stood in the family room with the author, describing how a busload of birders had trampled through a fishing spot he had staked out. The men laughed about the experience as Libby began preparing for the book signing.
At one of the musical gatherings called Schubertiads, an auditor cried out, "The Trout," as Franz Schubert played his latest composition. The sharp glissandos, and arpeggios, the pregnant pauses, and sudden stops of Schubert's "Trout Quintet" do indeed evoke images of trout flashing and fighting the line in a sun-slashed mountain stream. Zeigler's eyes lit up as the music was mentioned. And the progression of the five parts of the piece, through gleeful opening notes to a melancholy adagio, could certainly serve as a score for Zeigler's own life of joy and sorrow.

"I thought about using that for background music during my lectures," he said.
But, he said he thought better of it. The juxtaposition of a group of trout fishermen and chamber music may have seemed too contrasting an image in his mind.

That's partly because Zeigler's book is not easy to pigeonhole. On one hand, he offers with ease the type of expertise one would pay a fishing guide to impart. But the philosophy in his book, albeit of the type once known as "home truths," entails a catholic tolerance and humanity that deserves a wider audience than that of anglers only.

Now granted, Zeigler's a better fisherman than philosopher. But he's able to articulate the kinds of thoughts that transform into knots in men's throats even as he masters a "man's sport." That makes his arguments not only creditable, but also inspiring. His stories of the neighborhood guy whose father's death led him into a series of infidelities and affairs, or the fishing guide who confessed to having wet the bed through his teenage years in silent rebellion at his unhappy childhood, ring true because of Zeigler's fidelity to the voices and feelings of those who shared their lives with him.

Here, he writes what the guide told him of his life as an abandoned child:

"'I used to be so damn embarrassed," he said. "I used to wash my own sheets every day. I didn't want to sleep over to anybody's house. I remember goin' campin' and wakin' up in the mornin' in a wet, cold sleeping bag an' changin' my clothes in the freezin' cold before anybody got up."

More than thirty years later, Ken spoke wistfully of Montana's harsh beauty -- horses he had ridden, trout he had caught, deer he once skinned. Bu he had no plans to move back."

Bed-wetting's not a common staple of male discourse. And Zeigler's childhood was relatively happy compared to that of Ken's. Yet despite their divergent backgrounds, Zeigler's humanity enabled him to understand Ken's experience and relate it compassionately.

Zeigler may have helped spawn a new form of outdoors writing. His descriptions resonate with a respect for the outdoors reminiscent of a John Muir or William Bartram. And his almost clinical descriptions of what is essentially a blood sport rank with the most solid and traditional writers of the hunting and fishing genre. But what makes Zeigler and his work unique is that he does an excellent job of marrying humanity to nature, using the latter as a prism for understanding the former.

Hemingway came closest to describing how men think and behave when pressed by the danger and excitement of outdoor living. But even his characters all too often zipped it up, buttoned it up, put up and shut up rather than reveal their feelings.

Zeigler uses trout fishing as a means to several ends, casting successfully for what meaning there is in this life even as he eloquently remembers those seasons in the cold, high streams of his youth.

James M. Abraham is a syndicated book columnist. He can be reached at jabrajot@hotmail.com.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?