Mark Spitzer is an associate professor of writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America’s Most Misunderstood Fish and Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (Nebraska, 2017). Spitzer has consulted for Nat Geo’s Monster Fish and appeared on Animal Planet’s River Monsters. Spitzer’s previous guest posts can be found under the heading “Where in the West is Mark Spitzer?”.
Ahoy Monster-Fish Fans!
The long-awaited debut of the world’s newest monstro-fish odyssey, In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet, is Right Fricking Now! It came out from the University of Nebraska Press just a few weeks ago, and it is a stunning beauty! More importantly, it picks up where Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (Bison Books, 2017) left off, thereby taking this Fugly Freakfest in a whole nuther direction. And, I should add, at a time in our planet’s history when the messages it contains have never been more dire (i.e., 11.25 years until UN Climate Report Documented Doom if we don’t get it together pronto).
Anyhoo, the White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh was more than an appropriate blasting-off spot for the book’s launch. I mean, what epic quest in World Lit represents the Man vs. Leviathan monster-fishing spirit more than the legendary grudge betwixt Ahab and Moby Dick? In that battle, though, megalomania took a hit by riding the behemoth into the Abyss—a narrative that’s quite different from the intentions of In Search of Monster Fish.
But first things first, starting with Chapter 1. That’s what I read from on May 22, and that’s where the book begins: with snakeheads and piranhas rabid in the Amazon. Or, at least, that’s what the demonizers of niche organisms serving specific ecosystems would have us believe because romanticizing murder-visions is always more sexy than telling the truth (which is that humans have been peacefully coexisting for millennia with these supposed mass murtilators).
That’s not to say, however, that snakeheads and piranhas shouldn’t be approached with caution—especially when macheted in half. When I did that in Ecuador, this puny, little, overexposed sucker took three vicious chomps out of my hand and left my fingers shredded, slit and squirting blood. The fact that this happened had little to do with any sociopathic vendetta; that’s just what happens when people and fish encroach on each other—which is happening more and more on this orb full of dwindling resources where mythologizing creatures both endangers and protects monster fish.
How? Well, that’s something I can’t give away. Not here, not now. But the answer is in the book, and it’s available now. So get it before the oceans rise, the hurricanes hit, the forests erupt, and the entire epidermis of the Earth is razed away by the real factors we need to fear in the Monster-Fish Soup of Time.