By Frank Sargeant, Editor
It's a book really thought to be printed on parchment and bound in leather.
It's not...it's an ugly little paperback with too many words on each page and the feeling that no marketing person has ever seen it, or would want to.
Never mind that
If you want to read some of the best-and sometimes funniest--fishing prose written in the last 50 years--which is the limit of my experience or I might extend that longer--get a copy of Tom Levine's amazing book, Bass Fishing in Outer Space.
Getting honest praise out of me is like pulling wisdom teeth when it comes to writing about fishing. In decades of editing dozens of writers, including many who are fairly well-known, I have come to respect many but envy none. . .until now.
This guy, Levine...whom I do not know personally but whom I used to attempt to edit when he free-lanced for Florida Sportsman Magazine (it was like trying to get a race horse to pull a plow, because this guy's talents were not made for writing how to tie a Bimini twist) is just downright great when he gets in a groove.
There's not much you can do in the presence of genius but shut up and let the master dance so herewith are a few examples, taken from his story "Fishing On The Dark Side", a tale of night fishing on the Indian River on Florida's east coast:
"Scattering before us mullet ignite in the black marine cosmos, panicked into activating their telltale night coat of jellied flame. . . Fish burn underwater and we can gaze at the blaze of distant suns spent before the Industrial Revolution. . . . In order to age in the much-angled Titusville area, these (big trout) have developed sonar, radar, hearing aids, infrared vision, lateral line magnification, mental telepathy and a sense of humor. . . .
"Light is nothing without dark . . . great food for thought but our brains lack the appetite. Incandescent, fluorescent neon fireworks, Miller Light, these marvels are old hat. Cavemen that we are, we're happy just to be there spellbound by the luster of stars and fishes."
He goes on like that, for pages. It's a bit awe inspiring, to see through his eyes, his words, what you have seen yourself but could never express so well.
If you like Tom Robbins, Hunter S. Thompson and others who, let us say, have stood a bit too close to the midnight pharmacy on occasion, you will understand and love this book. Not that I am saying Mr. Levine has ever used or been in a boat where controlled substances are present, Mr. Libel Attorney. But he certainly may have been standing downwind on a few occasions when he penned such pieces as his poem, "What's Wrong With This Picture."
I'm not the only guy who reacts to Levine this way. He quotes from Tom Bie, editor of The Drake magazine, thusly:
"OK, Tom, I must admit: At least 50 percent of the time when I read what you've sent me, I have absolutely no idea what the #&*! you're talking about. But I like it when I do."
Bass Fishing in Outer Space is not only a very funny book but also rises to beauty and a sort of Carl Hiaasen-like philosophy on occasion, seen through the glass of Dave Barry's sometimes wacky use of words and situations. Levine in his youth thumbed around East Africa, Europe New Zealand, Australia and Bali as well as throughout the U.S, and tales of those adventures are even more interesting than the fishing stories.
It's a book you will want to read and re-read, and then pass on to the few buddies who will have what it takes to appreciate it. Not to your kids, though. At least not until they turn 18. Some of the most idyllic chapters, though, involve Tom and his sons, who must have grown up thinking they were the luckiest boys on the planet as they lived on a houseboat cruising the Suwannee River.
Anyway, it's sort of an ugly little book. Parchment and leather would have been better.
Bass Fishing In Outer Space is available from Defiant Worm Publishing, www.defiantworm.com, for $19.26 in print or $9.00 as an e-book. It's money well spent, either way.