Monday, February 16, 2009

Shadow Country

I can't believe I just spent $16 dollars on a book I have already read.  But this is Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country, a reworking of his three previously published books about the killing of E. J. Watson on the fronter coast of Florida in the early 1900's.  I think the money was well spent.  I read his three books - Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River and Bone by Bone - about seven or eight years ago.  They were wonderful books with a fascinating story, each telling the tragedy from a different point of view.  Why rewrite the books?  Matthiessen explained it in an interview with the New York Times.  I do remember I struggled with the second book, Lost Man's River, and find it interesting that the author said he was not satisfied with that part of the story.   Overall it is a complex story with hints of Faulkner and Conrad on the sparsely settled west coast of Florida.  (Okay, okay, this is a sailing blog.  So it is worth pointing out that the landscape of this story is part of the Everglades Challenge today, from just south of Fort Myers to the Shark River.)    I can't wait to start reading it in a few minutes.  
Matthiessen is a master of tying the landscape and wildlife to the lives of people.  That was clear to me back in the 70's when I first read his book Far Tortuga, a story about turtle fishermen in the Cayman Islands.  My paperback is still on the bookshelf, held together by scotch tape and the pages yellow with age.  Sometimes I pick it up just to read the first page, a description of daybreak at sea.  

"The sun, coming hard around the world:  the island rises from the sea, sinks, rises, holds."

Shadow Country, at 892 pages, should get me through the winter.  I still need to come up with some books for the next cruise.  I better start searching the used book websites.
The photo at top is from East Bluff Bay.  Mostly marsh grasses lining the shore in that area, but I found a little spot of sand and shell to go ashore and take a photograph of Spartina.

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