instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Quite the World, Isn't It?

On Nick Dybek and his debut novel

I've had a series of reviews published in the Los Angeles Times recently (a more or less up to date list of links to my journalism is at the left), and this morning's edition carries my look at Nick Dybek's debut novel, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man, which I liked despite some reservations.

Dybek, son of award-winning writer Stuart Dybek, went through the modern steps to becoming a writer, studying at the University of Michigan then going through the Iowa Writer's Workshop. A lot of times first novels by writers who've gone that route feel a bit too studied, as though they are assembling a novel, not writing one. And there is a touch of that in Dybek's book. But he manages to move beyond it and create something that works. It's a good debut, good enough that I'd happily read a second novel by him.

From my review:
The sharpest evidence of Dybek's skills is that he has taken a story line that could easily have veered into film cliché, a mix of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and the basic secret-in-the-basement plot, and turned it into a taut novel juggling the sometimes conflicting impulses to do the moral thing, and to protect those we love.

At the same time, Dybek steps beyond what could have been a tired coming-of-age story to write about memory, and about the repercussions of making a choice, whether it's right or wrong. In fact, making the right choice can often lose us more than making the wrong choice.

The choices Cal and his father make reveal facets of themselves they had not before contemplated. In the austere world of controlled emotions in which they live, the revelations are salted away like a catch at sea.

And we're left to wonder whether Flint ever was, indeed, a good man.
Be the first to comment