199 words about Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
On the board
There is nothing less interesting than the way weed makes “Light My Fire” sound, America supposedly losing its innocence around the same time you stopped liking your parents, but surfing is exotic; its probably bullshit mysticism hasn’t penetrated the culture so deeply that we’re belching it back up, throwing rotten fruit at boomers who rhapsodize about it. And so all the best parts of Barbarian Days take place in the water, fulsome literary descriptions of waves breaking every color and in every direction, Hawaiian island slang and the pleasingly strange jargon of a niche sport. One way to inject a distinct voice-iness into your writing, especially if you’ve been curing in the New Yorker’s dryly readable style for decades, is to use a lot of terms that enliven the imaginations of readers who don’t strictly speaking know what the hell you’re talking about. “Fighting [the board] down the late drops, and banking it through the slight chop, and then setting it into the face under the high, screamingly fast, backlit hook” just sounds athletic and cool. It’s possible this is not a very good book about surfing. I couldn’t tell you. But it does make me want to surf.