Wednesday, February 09, 2005

What the stars are reading

"By this time my left hand is almost numb despite its shooting mitten and, holding the heavy Tolley round the small of the stock with my now functional right hand, I attempt to revive the left by blowing on it, the resulting condensation, if anything, making it feel colder. For a moment or two, I forget about the geese in my efforts to restore feeling to my hands. 'Wink-wink, wink-wink' -- I look up to see two almost overhead. There is no time to stop the gun as the long brown barrels swing beyond the leader's head. A gout of orange flame, a cloud of grey smoke and burning fragments of the Daily Mail among the whins silence the remaining legions out in the estuary." -- Richard Shelton, The Longshoreman.

By this time, I already knew Shelton was a crusty old thing, naturally given to conservatism. So it shocked me somewhat to realise I'd like him better if he loaded his home-made cartridges with The Times, or even the Daily Telegraph. I am, it turns out, a snob.

[The Longshoreman: A Life at the Water's Edge, by Richard Shelton (Atlantic Books, 2004). Memoir of wildfowling -- that is, shooting wildfowl -- and top-level fisheries science, with a little light trainspotting near the start. The effect is the opposite of that you're led to expect in autobiographies. On people, human stories, the places he's been, Shelton could be any moderately entertaining buffer; but ask him to delineate the life cycle of the brown shrimp and he becomes precise and fascinating. Text is kerned too enthusiastically on punctuation -- a full stop followed by a capital T pretty much overlaps -- which seems to be the trend.]

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