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Book Review: In Pursuit Of Giants by Matt Rigney

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Matt Rigney’s In Pursuit Of Giants brought something out of me that I wasn’t quite expecting; a love for fishing. The reason that was unexpected was due to the fact that while I was around fishing all of my childhood I never learned to enjoy it. Actually, that’s not true, because the act of  fishing itself is quite relaxing and is a wonderful way to spend the day with your father.

For that reason alone I always wanted to love fishing, but I hated it because I could never bear to harm a fish. I know how hypocritical that is because I will always be the first one there when fish is on the table, but it always seemed cruel to me the way a fish would end its life on the end of a hook. Maybe that was just me and squeamishness, but it always seemed too much to bear as a child, which is why I would often fish with an un-baited hook in the hopes of never catching anything.

I hate fishing, you see, but I lived for spending hours on the water in a small boat with only my father and I in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.

My father, though, loved it. He loved everything, from the moment of planning a trip right down to the moment of pride he felt as he guided his boat perfectly onto the trailer so we could begin our trip home. And the fish themselves. . .my god how that man loved fish. He would hold the fish in his hands after unhooking it and just watch the sunlight glimmer like diamonds on the skin and scales of each bass or trout caught.

The love that Matt Rigney shows for fish, especially of the giant fish and true marvels of the water, in the pages of In Pursuit of Giants reminds me of my father in that sense. You can feel it through the ink of every page.

That love, however, is in danger. That is also something you can viscerally feel through the heft and seriousness of the book itself. All the while luring you in with a very tangible affection and sense of wonder for the creatures of the sea – especially those at the very apex of the “fish” family — Rigney drops the second shoe of knowledge that as a species we have drastically and perhaps permanently changed the sea and endangered the very existence of these creatures.

All of us think of the sea and the ocean as this permanent thing. Surely the ocean is too big for man to have influence and sway over; surely that is the one thing we can not be called into account over changing, right? Over all that water — or all within it, perhaps — there must be just as many fish now as there ever were. Right?

Wrong. Through modern fishing techniques and greed we have done to the watery depths what we have always done when we “want” something, and we know other people will pay for it because they want it to. Blue fin tuna.. say hello to the Buffalo. Marlin.. the dodo.. or even the carrier pigeon.

Of course, I understand i’m just glossing over things in this review because there’s no possible way I can go into the detail and emotion that Rigney manages to convey throughout his book. It would simply break my heart again, and I’m just not as talented of a writer as he is.

Hopefully, Matt Rigney will write many many more books because aside from the great story he unfolds through the pages of In Pursuit of Giants, the second revelation I found between its covers was my admiration for his writing.

It’s a sad story full of awe, wonder and amazing animals that might be gone within my own lifetime, and it’s a damned wonderful read for all of the tears that it caused to spill onto my review copy. I highly recommend this book and that we give thought to it and listen to its words of the possible change that could alter what seems to be an inevitable course.

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