November 24, 2008
Petzal: The Hunter's Greatest Bathroom Book
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
First, you have to understand that I mean this as the highest form of praise. If someone tells me that they read my stuff in the bathroom, I swell up like a toad that’s been inhaling helium. So, with that understood…
My colleague at Field & Stream, Deputy Editor Jay Cassell, has assembled The Gigantic Book of Hunting Stories a collection that is astonishing in number (119; 782 pages) and outstanding in quality. In most collections there are a few gems, some good stuff, and a fair number of pieces that were obviously included to pad out the page count. But TGBOHS is the best work of the best writers, all the way through. All the heavyweights are represented here.
It starts with Teddy Roosevelt and progresses through nine more chapters: waterfowl, small game, big game, deer, Africa and Asia, and so on. Nothing is neglected.
A small example of how good TGBOHS is: Corey Ford was for years a mainstay of Field & Stream, and is remembered for his series, The Lower Forty, and for his story, The Road to Tinkhamtown, which is on the short list of the greatest pieces the magazine has ever run. Tinkhamtown is in here, but Ford also wrote a very short piece that may be its equal, or better, and very few people have ever heard of it, much less read it. It’s written in the form of a letter and is titled “Just a Dog.” It ran only once, in 1940, and created such a furor that it has never run again. Reading the piece is like getting punched in the chest. Jay Cassell has rescued Only a Dog from oblivion, and it alone is worth the price of the book, which is $25 from skyhorsepublishing.com.
Christmas is coming. Need I say more?