Somehow between having two small children, a full time job, starting a small business, and steelheading, I managed to tear through this book in a matter of a day or two during the holidays. Based on my first experience reading McGuane I was expecting slow going. When I first read The Longest Silence I found myself re-reading sentences two and three times and still scratching my head wondering what he was saying, and 92 was similar in that regard but because of its narrative style, I didn’t feel like had to re-read so much. It was obviously written under the influence of quite a few mind altering substances and with that in mind it’s ok to just gloss over parts you don’t understand because part of being under the influence is just moving past things that seem odd or out of place. You just take note of the absurdity and move along, no re-reading required.
The book, to me, is like an updated more psychedelic version of To Have and Have Not. But where Big Papa was content to lay the tragic out in all its sad plainness, McGuane plays up the colorful absurdity of KW in the 70s.
Like any good book there are plenty of take aways and allegories for your own life. There are plenty of characters we can identify from our lives no matter how absurd. There are plenty of vignettes that ring true in our lives no matter how far out.
For a fishing-centric book it’s one that manages to find a great plot, have some serious literary depth but not to a level of pretension that I thought The Longest Silence was slightly guilty of.
92 is a book that finds a nice middle ground between gonzo absurdity that you might expect from a Hunter S.Thompson and the straight-faced dead-pan delivery of Hemingway. It’s fishing details and maritime minutia are given with enough confidence and spread out enough to interest those of us with an angling psychosis but not so much so as to make it painful for those who may not be as angling obsessed.
For anyone who’s been on a flat chasing nervous water, hallucinating in the sun, wondering if those are fishing pushing or just your mind playing tricks on you, pick up a copy of Ninety-Two in the Shade. It’s just like that but magnified in the life or death prismatic kaleidoscope of Key West before it had cruise ships.