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Outerbridge Reach (1999)

Outerbridge Reach (1999)

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3.71 of 5 Votes: 2
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0330372238 (ISBN13: 9780330372237)
macmillan general books

About book Outerbridge Reach (1999)

This is one of my favorite novels of any kind. It brings together everything I like about Robert Stone: characters with great potential and terrible flaws, a variety of approaches to love, a strong feeling for place and for different kinds of work, physical danger described in unusual poetic terms while still being frightening, very dark humor and gorgeous prose. It feels grounded and whole in a way that his books don't always achieve, even though he's deliberately writing against his grain, giving two-thirds of the stage not to the wandering bohemian journalist character but to mainstream suburban New York Republicans. And despite being about people who don't know what they're doing, it's plotted like a graceful machine-- every step of the setup seems like a simple detail at the time, and then once the story gets going, those details align into something that feels inevitable.The central event, a solo sailing race around the world, is sort of based on a real incident which would have made a good story by itself, but Stone uses very little of that story except for one particular infamously bad decision. The rest of it is perfectly constructed to examine how someone could make that decision, to imagine how the seeds of it might have been planted by interactions with other people without their awareness, and to relate it to the choices we make in less dramatic circumstances. Even though the characters are sometimes lost in introspection, the setting and the action are always very specific: this is how this or that person handles a boat, attends a convention, films an interview. The guy in the boat isn't just an abstract man facing nature and facing himself; his situation is influenced by his family and community and job, and even when he's alone it's a modern kind of solitude where you can make phone calls-- and that thread of contact affects the course of the story in a way that wouldn't have been possible in an earlier time and, for different reasons, wouldn't be possible now.If you've ever read anything by this author, it's not really giving anything away to say that by the end of this book some extremely sad things have happened. The last page always kills me and makes me weepy; it's an ambiguous and in some ways hopeful ending, but it's not the kind of hope you would have hoped for. It's all worth it, though.

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