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Aug292009

1985

Easy in the Islands

By Bob Shacochis

Original Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Current Publisher:
Grove Press (Grove/Atlantic, Inc.)

Harold Augenbraum writes:

Men with boats make such great fiction (not too sure about women with boats). Melville, Verne, Conrad, Hemingway, Casey, and now Shacochis. And then there’s men and women in the Caribbean. Hemingway (again), Rhys, McMillan. Sex, fish, death, cops, Creole dialect, booze, racial strife. Not a lot of internal monologue here, thinking on the page. Stuff happens. One guy (and these are mainly guys) drops his mother into the drink from an airplane because he can’t get permission to export her body back to New England for burial. A sexy lounge singer performs, well, uh, performs, on a drunk monkey-owner. Two men contest for fish on a sluggish boat, while the woman between them begins to find herself (which is what women do in these stories, unlike the men, who just go on contesting). A dubious businessman goes out jogging in Palm Beach but loses his shorts, is chased by the cops, and ends up on the deck of a cigarette boat smuggling Haitians. Two islanders contest over a giant turtle, one claiming to have shot it with a spear, the other saying he netted it before the first one shot it. What makes the stories fun and interesting (and they are both) is that the islands are decidedly not the end of the line for these people, as they are portrayed in cheap fiction. Instead they are a place in which people live. Some are temporaries, others are permanent, but they bump and jab just like the rest of us. Some come out bloodied, others unbruised, and still others untouched. But everyone knows that at some point, they’ve been in a fight.

Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.


ISBN: 9780802140593

First Work of Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Elizabeth Benedict for Slow Dancing
  • Cecile Pineda for Face

Fiction Judges that Year: Not available

The Year in Literature:

  • Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Claude Simon won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

  • The stories in Easy in the Islands are set in various Caribbean locales and reflect Bob Shacochis experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Grenadines.
  • Shacochis first novel, Swimming in the Volcano, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1993, though it did not win.

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