Gus Openshaw’s Whale Killing Journal: First Review

I’ve been reading the original Gus Openshaw blog for about a year and a half, almost two years now. It amounted to a serial novel, with comments. With a lot of other people, birds, and dead guys, I participated in the comments (I am in disguise, although it’s probably an open secret now as to my identity).

Since the end of the adventure some time ago, Gus moved on to another free online blog community, Mindsay.

A blog entry from last year may help make it less confusing. “No, is too much. I will sum up.”

First Review of the Whale-Killing Journal

Gus Openshaw notes on his Mindsay blog:

What does it feel like to get the first review of your book? Well, pretend you’re me a few minutes ago and you are about to read the following sent to you by your publisher. Now pretend butterflies are throwing punches in your stomach. Now read it {Note: Thomson is the name of a stooge who, because I might get extradited otherwise, stands in for me}:

Kirkus Reviews
Thomson, Keith
GUS OPENSHAW’S WHALE-KILLING JOURNAL
1-59692-172-2

A blogger-slash-whaler goes hunting for his prey in the Caribbean—where the waters are shark-infested, the crew is always on the verge of mutiny and absurd plot twists arrive with every other paragraph.

Thomson’s raucous comedy of errors is the tale of Gus Openshaw, a worker at a cat-food cannery who spends his summer hot on the trail of the “blubbery bastard” who swallowed his wife, child and right arm. Openshaw obsessively details his pursuit on his blog, and he’s a little surprised to learn that his readership knows of other obsessive, one-limbed whalers. (“I’ve been calling [the whale] ‘Dickhead,’ ” he writes. “Everybody always laughs and says that’s a witty reference. Hell if I know why.”) Joining him on the trip are a short-tempered, murderous cook, a deckhand who’s addicted to hull cleaner, the appropriately named Stupid George (who at one point heaves a harpoon handle-first) and Flarq, a Queequeg-like deckhand who draws “scrimshaws” of the events in the story (illustrations appear throughout). Thomson constantly subverts the narrative by concocting increasingly ridiculous turns of events—Openshaw’s sued for libeling Dickhead on his blog, after which he falls for the Princess of Whales, the ruler of a small whale-worshipping island who, in turn, happens to work for a black-market arms dealer who appears at crucial moments with, say, a prosthetic arm, or an F-15 fighter jet. Yet Thomson never loses his grip on the plot—he works hard to make the story hang together logically; the brief, blog-length chapters, meanwhile, keep the jokes punchy and entertaining. If Moby-Dick was a richly symbolic work about the whole of human experience, this is just an assortment of riffs on adventure tales, love stories and human idiocy in general. Thomson is no Melville, but there’s no question who’s the better gag-writer.

Dumb fun, smartly imagined.

Well, good for Gus. The next book is going to be a reality. I guess Pirates of Pensacola did all right. And if all the wacky commenters are going to be in the Acknowledgements, I suppose that might be a good enough reason to reveal my sekrit identity.

Which is probably embarassingly obvious, but we’ll continue with the pretense that it’ll be a complete surprise to everybody.

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