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God likes squid best

 

 

Deborah Stoll | Winter 2008

I just finished "Trawler", Redmond O’Hanlon's chewy and unbelievable account of his trip aboard a commercial deep-sea trawler, and I can't stop talking about it. Aboard the Norlantean, the 51-year-old O'Hanlon–a writer and natural historian–was unprepared for his journey into the frigid waters of northern Scotland at the very worst time of year. The result is both suspenseful and hilarious, and full of weird information about fish.

Under the watchful eye of an energetic and patient young biologist named Luke Bullough, O'Hanlon joins the manic crew as they haul and gut fish every hour of the day and night in varying levels of physically challenging storms. As promised, sleep deprivation takes hold and the crew steadily go mad, “And you, Redmond, you, too–you’ll crack up," Bullough warns. "And so will I. I’ll crack up. I always do.”

Like in a perfectly plotted movie, the madness acts as a gateway to the men’s unconsciousness. Legends are revealed, stories told–from the joys of prison  (“I’m telling you, marvelous! A hotel for trawlermen!") to the pursuit of love (“I want a woman whose personality I can fall in love with, I want to be in love with who she is, the real her”).

The long, meandering discussions O'Hanlon chronicles are laced with Scottish curses and antiquated British quips, and filled with deceptively brilliant thoughts on everything from evolution to bar fights to homosexuality in the Royal Navy.
 
And oh–the things you’ll learn! Flying skate–they fly! And a catfish is actually a dogfish. Then there's Bullough's convincing case that “God likes squid best": "their eyes are so superior…. whereas with us, God was having a sleep, he messed up, big time!…Aye!”

O'Hanlon is a man whose constant need to slake his thirst for knowledge and adventure benefits us. He further demonstrates just how ill-equipped one can be and still survive nearly anything. He is the madcap, stained shirt, brilliant history professor you never had.

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