Friday, May 18, 2012
The Great Northern Express by Howard Frank Mosher
I love fishing stories. Lord know why, since I can remember only fishing a couple of times in my life. There is something about the sinuous dance of the line, the exotic choice of flies, the murmur of water, the glint of sun that mesmerizes me. And perhaps there is something about that wily fisherman hatching his next story in the big outdoors that makes even failure seem like a good day.
Howard Frank Mosher did not write a fish story. Well, not really. But it felt like one. He gives us long, lazy, drawling storytelling as he rolls from one state to another on his cross-country book tour. You might say he was casting a line in all those independents he visited: some holes were dry and some were hopping. In bookstore readings with an author we get perhaps an hour of the author’s time, giving a reading, telling anecdotes. In The Great Northern Express we have hours of stories, the best ones, about what it is like to live in a mill town in far north New England, to be an author, to travel the country flogging one’s wares in a vehicle so ragged that every mile gained is both a prayer and a miracle.
We learn of the man and his life, his influences, his decisions, his joys and cankers. And we get some of the best yankee backcountry jawing around. More than once, he reminded me of the classic book Go With Me by Castle Freeman about northeastern Yankees sitting around an abandoned chair factory for fun.
I’m glad Mosher took his long-promised trip, but I wish he’d had more time for fishing.
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