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It has often been said that, amidst the voluminous writing on sports, only baseball, boxing, horse racing and fly fishing have produced any literature of enduring value. Fly fishing, of course, is a pursuit of the literary classes, so it is no surprise that it has been the subject of an inordinate amount of fine writing. The hot young writer in this distinct niche is young James Prosek, who published Trout: An Illustrated History (1996) while still a Yale undergraduate. Prosek is not only a capable author, he also paints fine watercolors to accompany his own text and he has set the hearts of middle aged white male fishing aficionados aflutter.
In Joe and Me, he has written a memoir of his youth in Connecticut and of his relationship with Joe Haines, a local game warden who busted him fishing illegally and then took him under his wing. Prosek's parents were divorced and, though James appears to have continued living with his Dad, Joe seems to have become something of a surrogate father. Joe taught him about everything from surf casting for bluefish to rendering a bull, from clamming to picking blue berries, with gruff good humor and great generosity at almost every step of the way.
Perhaps this is purely a personal reaction, but I found myself really liking the somewhat curmudgeonly Joe and wanting to bitch slap James, who seems not to fully realize his great good fortune in having such a mentor. If Joe is sometimes a little too sarcastic or impatient or seems too braggadocious, this is more than outweighed by his willingness to include this callow youth in his world and too share a lifetime of knowledge with him. I am cognizant of the fact that I am saying that the author of a book about a man is unappreciative of that man. But truthfully, I am even bothered by the fact that the title is "Joe and Me". How about just "Joe"?
I didn't dislike this book, but I was disappointed in the overall tone. Perhaps success has come too quickly for the author and he will benefit from the perspective that age will bring. I, for one, think this would be a much different, and better, book if he rewrote it later in life.
See also:Sports (Hunting & Fishing)
-Troutsite: The Official Website of James Prosek
-Yale Anglers' Journal (founded by Prosek)
-Yale Golden Boy Lures the Big Fish (Alexandra Jacobs, NY Observer)(search for Prosek)
-Life by the Rod and Reel: Lessons learned from fishing and friends have molded a troubled Connecticut boy into a 24-year-old artist, writer, adventurer, and philosopher. (Lin Reinke, Ingersoll-Rand)
-REAL AUDIO INTERVIEW: Linda Wertheimer speaks with James Prosek (NPR)
-Yale Student Finds Art in Trout; Anglers Find Joy In His Book (DENISE LAVOIE, News Times)