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Sea of Hooksby Lindsay Hill
Synopses & Reviews
A boy grew up beside a sea of hooks and he learned to swim in that sea and to notice the hooks as they rose and fell and twisted in the tides...
What if you saw the world — with all its signs and signals, its schedules and habits and goals, the matrix of friends, the unspoken codes of conduct — emptied of ordinary meaning?
Imagine that the debris collected from the streets of your childhood spoke more urgently to you, with messages and wonders that compelled you to enter another world, a world whose broken pieces converged at the junctures of vision and illusion, of life and death. In this wise and beautiful novel, the reader follows Christopher Westall, an alarmingly imaginative young man, through repeated trauma and transformation, on a journey from San Francisco to Bhutan.
His shattered life is woven from a thousand shards, hints, signs and tangled threads that are pursued and gathered toward its reassembly.
As memory, dream, fear and resilience exert their tidal pulls, Christopher's life tilts, collides, reverses, dissolves and reemerges, while risks and revelations glisten side-by-side in the depths of the Sea of Hooks.
"This first novel by poet and one-time banker Hill is less a novel, in the traditional sense, than a spiritual biography. Christopher Westall, raised in San Francisco in the 1950s and heady '60s, is the only child of an alcoholic and distant father and an eccentric, meddling mother. The boy is alarmingly fragile and sensitive, and possessed by a soaring imagination and a slew of fascinating theories about sound, ice, 'knife people' under his bed, and, most significantly, a world from which 'messengers' communicate with him via random detritus he picks up in the street — slips of paper, foil from cigarette packs, etc. These he orders into a fantasy world. Repeated sexual abuse by a tutor makes escapism even more urgent for the 12-year-old, as do subsequent tragedies: his mother's suicide in his bed; his father's career misfortunes and early death. Not until Christopher is befriended by an older man named Dr. Thorn does a kind of mentoring occur; indeed, Dr. Thorn's counsel — and final messages — delivers Christopher to a form of peace, achieved through the practice of Buddhism and a pilgrimage to Bhutan when the latter is an adult. But it is Hill's language that dominates this story, which is told in fractured bits, not unlike the messengers. Christopher's mediations on death, memory, the relations of bones to the self, not to mention rain and snow and fog and the cosmos, are mystical, highly poetic and musically rendered — an almost impossibly sustained performance from beginning to end. Nearly every paragraph astonishes, every moment rich with magic and daring. Reminiscent of Robert Pirsig and Herman Hesse in its concern with authenticity, Sea of Hooks also has the unbearable anguish of Kafka's diaries — making for an unforgettable trip." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Sea of Hooks is an impressive work that uses...[a] fractured format to great effect, benefiting from Hill's powerful poetic sensibility." Shelf Awareness
"Poets see the world in a different way from the rest of us, and Sea of Hooks shows that, at least in the case of poet Lindsay Hill, they see novels differently, too. The first work of fiction from Hill, Sea of Hooks could be described as a coming-of-age novel — but that would do an injustice to its unique form....Dipping in and out of poetry like toes flirting with a blue lake's water, Sea of Hooks isn't an easy read, but it's often mesmerizing." Seattle Times
"Sea of Hooks is a terrifyingly beautiful novel by Portland writer Lindsay Hill. I can't think of the last time a book wrapped itself around me with such instant intensity, pulling me into another space, another life, one so steeped in pain from the first paragraph — yet I couldn't put it down....Unbelievably, this is Hill's first novel. More believable when you know he labored on it for 20 years; it reflects the depth and richness of a life's work and love. Recognition has begun: it has just been included in Publishers Weekly 10 Best Books for 2013, one of only five novels. May it find the passionate readership it deserves." The Oregonian
"Lindsay Hill's astonishing novel, Sea of Hooks, treads the main character's pathway...with a highly original narrative form and voice." Counterpunch
About the Author
Lindsay Hill was born in San Francisco and graduated from Bard College. Since 1974, he has published six books of poetry and his work has appeared in a wide variety of literary journals. Sea of Hooks is his first novel, the product of nearly twenty years of work. His other writing and editorial projects include the production of a series of recordings of innovative writing under the Spoken Engine label, and the co-editing, with Paul Naylor, of the literary journal Facture. Since leaving a career in banking, he has worked in the nonprofit sector. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, the painter Nita Hill.
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