cover image Fishboy


Mark Richard. Nan A. Talese, $19.95 (227pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42560-5

Seafaring lore finds a macabre new context in this debut novel, a surreal tale of shipboard grotesques in mortal struggle. Protagonist Fishboy, an abandoned child with fish-like eyes and a whistling lisp, shucks mollusks in a squalid cannery where the fishing boats unload their catch. Believing he has killed another worker, he flees to the open sea on a trawler manned by a murderous, deranged crew of outcasts and oddities. As he tries to survive and find a niche among these extreme personalities, Fishboy contemplates his crime and his brief, sorrowful history. Richard, who won the PEN/Hemingway Award for his short story collection, The Ice at the Bottom of the World , renders a vivid, febrile vision wherein the omnipresent sea is both primordial broth and agent of ultimate decay. Steeped in blood, offal and viscera, his characters are scabrous but compelling. His skillful manipulation of prose rhythms and images heightens the immediacy of this odd juxtaposition of nautical legend and mordant, post-nuclear nihilism. Achieving a graceful balance of insight and parody, clarity and hallucination, Richard fashions an imaginative, impressive novel. (May)