A novel in twelve fish.
November 30, 2005 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Gould's Book of Fish (full contents of Chapter One) by Tasmanian author/historian/Rhodes Scholar Richard Flanagan is a critically lauded 2002 novel that is the most interesting and accomplished work of fiction I've read in years. Set in the 19th century on a penal colony off the coast of Tasmania, the book is narrated by William Buelow Gould, a convict, charlatan, and possible madman. Here is an audio interview with Flanagan; here's an audio clip of the author reading from his book. (.ra files) Yes, the book is a few years old, but it somehow passed under my radar; and, anyway, a good book is timeless. (Picking up the piscine gauntlet thrown down by Plutor.)
posted by Dr. Wu (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The narrative similarities to such works as Heart of Darkness are interesting, but the really incredible thing about this book is Flanagan's voice and style, which are the most accomplished and vivid that I've read in years. (My favorite authors are Nabokov and Burgess, if that tells you anything.)
This is a really terrific book that deserves your attention.
posted by Dr. Wu at 2:47 PM on November 30, 2005

Heh...you said 'penal'.
posted by rocket88 at 2:58 PM on November 30, 2005

That does sound interesting. I really liked Burgess' Earthly Powers.
And Nabokov: well, up to a point.
His superior protagonists started to get on my nerves after a few novels.
posted by jouke at 3:22 PM on November 30, 2005

This is one of my favorite books. Something I can't figure out: was there ever a printing featuring different color inks for each chapter? I love how the story turns inside out at the end.
posted by tomharpel at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2005

tomharpel: In researching this post, I read somewhere that, yes, the original edition of the book had different ink colors for each of the twelve fish/chapters. My version is a paperback, but I might seek out that original - it would be a delight to read it in that form.
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2005

see also BookFilter (too bad it was not more active).
posted by stbalbach at 3:30 PM on November 30, 2005

tomharpel, Dr. Wu: A professor of mine had the hardback version, with full color pictures of the fish, different color inks for each chapter. Up until about 2 years ago, they sold it on Amazon. I stupidly never bought it, expecting copies to never run out. D'oh.
posted by papakwanz at 3:33 PM on November 30, 2005

This sounds fascinating; must go put it on my wishlist.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:49 PM on November 30, 2005

Papakwanz: copies of the hardback are available for quite reasonable prices from abebooks.com. You can also -- as I've just done -- order a copy of the Australian first edition for not much more. Since Dr Wu is the third person who has recommended this book to me this week, it might be an astute investment.
posted by Hogshead at 6:40 PM on November 30, 2005

This was my favorite book of '03. More people should read.

That is all.

or is it? maybe I never said that. maybe this watery illusion called life swims past our inebriated little brains. pas me more grog, matey, while I learn to make me a cabinet! oooh look! a harlot! in the shape of a fish!
posted by lalochezia at 9:05 PM on November 30, 2005

I've got the original edition and yes, it does have different coloured inks for each chapter. It made me think that more publishers should invest in the look and feel of a book, since it added so much to the experience of reading it.

I bought it when it first came out in 2002 (I think) having read a mindblowing article in Prospect about it. It's a wonderful book that I cannot recommend highly enough - the imagination that must have gone into writing it is astounding. Please read it!

Thanks Dr Wu for the links, the audio transcript is particularly interesting.
posted by greycap at 11:35 PM on November 30, 2005

Nominated for "Best Use of the Word 'Piscine' in 2005".

Looks fascinating -- I'll check it out.
posted by Miko at 6:31 AM on December 1, 2005

Thanks for the tip, I've got it on reserve at my local library.
posted by fixedgear at 9:33 AM on December 1, 2005

"For Mr Hung’s religion was literature, literally. He belonged to the Cao Dai, a Buddhist sect that regarded Victor Hugo as a god."

Actually, he's just a saint.
posted by homunculus at 4:06 PM on December 1, 2005

Thanks all. Just purchased a copy from abebooks.com.
posted by tomharpel at 9:22 PM on December 2, 2005

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