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Outerbridge Reach by Robert Stone
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Outerbridge Reach (1992)

by Robert Stone

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A great book! mystical at times, critical all along about vanity, ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 1, 2016 |
Robert Stone is a really great writer. To expand on that sentiment a little bit, I'll say that Robert Stone is a really great masculine writer. In an age when it seems that any Cormac-come-lately who writes short, simple sentences can be acclaimed as the next Hemingway, Robert Stone shows us how masculine writing, with male protagonists, masculine themes, and, yes, masculine prose, is done. His sentences aren't obviously reductive or overbearing; they're forceful and direct, carefully wrought and precision-tuned for maximum impact. The influence of thriller-genre writing on Stone's plots and characters is obvious, but this genre's favorite virtues extend to his prose. Stone has mostly forgone the genre's pulpiest diction, but his sentences are still lithe and taut and wonderfully propulsive, pushing the reader forward without bothering to show off their often flawless craftsmanship. I'll stop short of flattery, but I'm pretty sure that Stone could make an auto manual compelling reading if he decided to make that his next project.

"Outerbridge Reach" itself has a lot to recommend it, though many of its themes will surely be familiar to Stone's readers. This time, Stone tackles the social and emotional fallout of the sixties from a different perspective, making Owen Browne, a conservative former Navy officer, his narrator. Suffering from financial trouble and emotional isolation, Browne decides to stake his life and financial fortunes on a solo round-the-world sailboat race with predictably disastrous, if unexpectedly bizarre, results. Stone, who is better known for creating louche, dangerously unprincipled characters like Ron Strickland, a filmmaker who chronicles Browne's adventure, writes Browne without condescension, making him both likable and flawed. As the story progresses and the plot enters the long, slow death spiral that seems characteristic of his novels, he mercilessly exposes the cracks in Browne's character, and it's riveting, if almost painful, to see Browne quail before both the elements and the impossibly high standards he has set for himself. The book's structure, which hinges on the dual conflicts of "man versus nature" and "man versus himself," might be familiar to readers who spend a lot of time at sea, as will the plot itself, which is a reworking of the Donald Crowhurst scandal of the mid-sixties. Still, it's thrilling to see both sides of this equation handled this well by a writer of Stone's caliber. The comparisons that Stone draws, between Browne's experience and that of his entire generation, or between the different kinds of toughness exhibited by the novel's characters, fit seamlessly with the book's seagoing plot. Among all this testosterone, Stone even manages to include Anne Browne, a complex, sympathetic female character who bridges the gap between Stone's two preferred character archetypes. The daughter of a wealthy shipping family, she begins the book a respectable WASPy woman of middle age but slips slowly and inexorably into alcohol and adultery as the novel progresses. For all his style and manly bravado, Stone's principal interest is human frailty. In "Outerbridge Reach," every character, and every sailing vessel, is stretched well past their breaking point and few emerge better for their experience. It's a compelling and impressive read, but sometimes so intense that it's likely to leave some of Stone's audience feeling tempest-tos't and thoroughly exhausted. ( )
3 vote TheAmpersand | Dec 12, 2010 |
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Robert Stoneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kent, RockwellIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The author wishes to thank the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for the award of a Strauss Livings, during the term of which this novel was written.  Many individuals offered advice and encouragement while the work was in progress, above all Bruce Kirby and Peter Davis.

An episode in the book was suggested by an incident that actually occurred during a circumnavigation race in the mid-1960s.  This novel is not a reflection on that incident but a fiction referring to the present day.
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That winter was the warmest in a hundred years.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0395587816, Hardcover)

Now in his early forties, Annapolis graduate and Vietnam vet Owen Browne sees his final chance for greatness in an upcoming yacht race. By the author of Dog Soldiers. 75,000 first printing. $100,000 ad/promo. BOMC Main. Tour.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:19 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

'Fiction at its best, at once straightforward and subtle, entertaining and serious' John Banville 'A tough, elegant, alarming novel. Stone writes superbly about the sea, about fear and loneliness, about life in extremis . . . In Outerbridge Reach, he has produced what I believe will come to be recognized as a quintessential novel of the Reagan era, along with Updike's Rabbit at Rest and Don DeLillo's Mao II' John Banville, Guardian 'Stone has already written two of the best novels of the past twenty years, Dog Soldiers and A Flag for Sunrise. Outerbridge Reach makes it three . . . He is a great storyteller, whose plots move as relentlessly as those of the best thrillers, yet his prose is elegant and full of literary allusions' A. Alvarez, Sunday Times 'Stone's fifth and finest novel is about going to sea and the difficulty of trying to find a way back again . . . if one half of Stone's characters live their secret, interior lives apart from society, then the other half are desperately looking for their own ways out: drugs, murder, revolution, betrayal, infidelity . . . and, in the case of Owen Browne in Outerbridge Reach, sailing off the map of the world and mind altogether' Scot Bradfield, Independent 'Its themes are contemporary and touched with cruelty . . . The toughness of Stone's novels has been readily accepted as on the surface; but there's an inner toughness of judgement that, when one stubs one's toe on it, is even more impressive' Robert M. Adams, New York Review of Books… (more)

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