A delightful, hyper-extended ballad in his own tradition.
Back Bay Books
ISBN: 0-316-05996-x (pb)
[Okay, it’s an older book, but this is the first I’ve read it. Check the
used bookstores or the library or your best friend for a copy.]
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this book when I first saw it. The cover, with its beguiling pictures of a lighthouse on the front and Jimmy himself on the back caught my eye and made me smile. Usually a good sign. It was also marked ‘national bestseller’. Not always a good sign.
I didn’t know what kind of novelist Buffet was, but I liked his music. And the thing I like about his sort of songwriter is that they tell a complete tale in few words that carries you away like a cruise then brings you back to port refreshed. I decided to get on board, and I’m glad I did.
In A Salty Piece of Land, Buffett introduces us to Tully Mars, a Wyoming cowboy who headed south and seaward to eventually meet up with 101-year-old Cleopatra Highbourne, captain of The Lucretia, in search of a particular lens for the Cayo Loco lighthouse she is restoring.
Tully, through skillful comments and entertaining narration, takes himself and us through the saga of how he came to leave Wyoming (on the run), set sail through stormy seas alongside Captain Kirk (with his horse Mr. Twain aboard) to the Island of the Lost Boys, become a flats fishing guide, participate in a spring break foam party and avoid jail and bounty hunters while trying to find his spiritual home and that special lens for Cleopatra.
It is a rollicking tale as temperamental as the sea itself, and reminiscent in tone of Patrick Dennis?s 1971 novel Paradise about an ailing tropical resort with its motley group of employees and visitors who are cut off from the world by an earthquake. Dennis was nothing if not irreverent, and his book was my personal introduction to viewing characters affectionately but through the blunt and bleary lenses of the morning after rather than the roseate ones of the night before. Buffett handles his characters in similar fashion, but with more depth and kindness than Dennis. His main character, Tully, despite his imperfections, never disappoints. He remains true to the cowboy image, and despite the outrageous antics that take place, you never lose your sense of being beside him or your desire to root for him. A Salty Piece of Land not only makes you want to visit there, but it inspires you to find one for yourself.