I purchased this volume when it came out back in 1989 or 1990. Probably as flagged up by Raymond Carver or the Granta anthologies of Dirty Realism. I remember being impressed at the time. Going back to the collection I started with ‘Mississippi’.
Like a Townes Van Zandt (both from Fort Worth Texas) folk tale this story of a rich oil prospector’s son and a working class kid hanging out fishing in the swamp and finally wrestling a snapping turtle out of the mud before returning it unharmed (an early sign of Bass’s environmental concerns) was as I recalled i.e. impressive. This continued through to last story in the collection ‘Redfish’ where the poetic description of a menacing seascape and the futile actions of the two dwarfed humans acting out their drunken attempt at fishing was againjust as powerful as I remembered. The white BMW digging itself deeper into the bay at Galveston is an apt metaphor for industrial ‘progress’ and doubly ironic in light of subsequent events offshore at the Deep Horizon Rig which about as poetic a name for a disaster as one could dream up.
Rick Bass’s ‘other’ Deep Horizon has subsequently extended to a deep environmentalism and a string of ward-winning books including a fair amount of well-respected environmental books investigating the impact of human degradation on different species such as wolves and bears.
The back cover mentions the collection as being like Richard Ford’s ‘Rock Springs’ and although three of the stories do contain the same characters there is a deeper cohesion at work as pointed out in Curtis Smith’s article here: http://fictionwritersreview.com/essay/revisiting-the-watch/.
The cohesion is one of place revealed through man (and woman) testing themselves against both. That love of place and understanding human involvement has remained with Bass throughout and it a pleasure to return. I have one other Bass volume ‘Platte River’ his second book published in 1994. I have never read it since I purchased it in 1994, like some kind of time capsule, now I will.
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