Review: When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man

Nick Dybek’s When Captain Flint Was Still A Good Man is a solid literary work.  He takes a claustrophobic hide-bound town and the strained relationships inside it and makes it something both mythic and small.  It’s a story of place and time more than character, but the place and time are worth a look.

His characters are solid, but not stunningly original.  They are creatures of his small fishing town and more personify parts of it than exist on their own.  He has passages where the narrator looks back from where he gets to later, but one sees clearly that he’s a different person than the one experiencing the events in the novel. The time and place are the stars.

The time is the time when a young person decides who he’s going to be – to the extent that he has a say in that decision.  His protagonist is reactive, as most are then, but introspective enough to make the transformation interesting.  Similarly the setting is condensed enough to make nearly every action symbolic.

Fortunately, Dybek has an even hand and an ear for dialog, so that the symbolism stays clear but not hackneyed.  The larger meanings are never hidden, but never overwhelm the story’s rhythm.  The story is a good yarn with some grand gestures.


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