Remembering Mark Spitzer

It is with sadness that we share the news that Mark Spitzer, author and fish enthusiast, passed away on January 19, 2023.

He began his career as a Writer in Residence for three years at the bohemian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, where he translated French criminals and misanthropes. He taught creative writing and lit for five years at Truman State University and later taught creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas where he founded and edited the Toad Suck Review. All the while, Spitzer traveled the world catching monster fish and advocating for sustainable angling practices.

A prolific writer, Spitzer was author of more than thirty books, and the UNP is proud to be a publisher of two of them: Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (Bison Books, 2017), and In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet (Nebraska, 2019). Spitzer was also a regular contributor to our Behind the Book blog, posting under the headings “Where in the Monster-Fish World is Mark Spitzer?” and “Where in the West is Mark Spitzer?

One of UNP’s Senior Editors, Matthew Bokovoy writes:

“Mark Spitzer was a very talented, multi-genre writer and literary editor with very sophisticated tastes in Central and East European literature much like his mentor Andrei Codrescu, the Romanian-born American poet. But his literary tastes were wide-ranging across world literatures, nonfiction and fiction genres, and he was humble in his intellect, enjoying fishing and drinking beers with other anglers from the Great Plains. Mark was kind of the Walter Benjamin (The Arcades Project) or Mike Davis (City of Quartz) of fish adventure writing, always peeling away the class-based, racialized, imperialistic, and environmentally destructive aspects of the angling world in favor of non-elites’ right to fish and provide food for their tables. Mark’s keen sense of history and his dialectical method of prose writing stripped down the angling experience to its true history and egalitarian basis, whether this was descriptions of poor whites and blacks in the South breaking the law to hunt garfish, Okies noodling (hand-fishing) for catfish during the Great Depression, or noting the Western imperialism beneath angling tourism in Southeast Asia.”

Of Mark Spitzer, UNP’s Publicity and interim Marketing Manager, Rosemary Sekora writes:

“I am not a fish girl in all senses of the word; I don’t eat fish, you certainly wouldn’t find me in a boat with a pole in my hand, and you definitely wouldn’t find me noodling. The thought alone gives me the heebie-jeebies. And that’s what made Mark special to a non-fish girl like me. Every time he sent in a new blog post, I was excited (and nervous) to open the attachments to see what underwater monster he sent us this time to spotlight. He gave me fish-appreciation—which is no easy task—and I feel lucky to have helped promote his books and his activism in environmentalism. As Mark said in his last blog post for us:

So as all this goes on, may the Monster Fish be with you! No, make that… May All Fish Be With You. Literally! Because when the fish are gone, you can be sure that we won’t be sitting around lamenting their unfortunate passage. Because when mass fish species crash, well… you can guess the rest.”

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