BOOK REVIEW BY JIM CASADA
Senior Editor at Sporting Classics Magazine
Simply put, if you haven’t yet read the two books produced by John P. Faris, Jr., a treat of the first magnitude awaits you. I accorded brief coverage to the books, Ten Was the Deal (2013) and We’ll Do It Tomorrow (2016) in earlier renditions of this column.
Faris is a true sportsman for all seasons and, in his books, you encounter a little bit of everything. Information Faris provides about himself reveals that he and his wife have, over the years, visited all of the earth’s continents and more than 80 countries, yet his stories leave no doubt whatsoever of his keen awareness that his home state of South Carolina is in effect a sporting paradise. His stories range widely—the predictable coverage of deer and turkey hunting; the Christmas BB gun and then, in due time, a worthy successor in the form of a single-shot shotgun familiar to so many of us; waterfowling; small game and various types of fishing.
The background to these ventures in storytelling is also intriguing. Inspiration came from the author’s admiration for annual Christmas “letters” his minister shared with the congregation, and the catalyst for Faris moving from uncertain, possibly faltering first footsteps in putting together something similar from his own life experiences to finished books came about in as moving a setting as one can possibly imagine.
Alone in a room with his father, “who was always my best friend,” Faris read a story to him as he lay on his deathbed. It was an attempt to capture some of the outdoor grandeur they had shared and savored. Faris wasn’t even certain his dying father was aware of him or his oral recounting of special moments from their shared past he had committed to paper, but when the tale was told, the senior Faris gripped his son’s hand with tears rolling down his cheeks. That’s precisely the type of emotion, at times gut-wrenching and at others a zephyr of literary wind to lift one’s spirits and send them soaring, the author brings to his pages.
A subliminal message Faris offers time and again is that it isn’t merely the size of the quarry, the heft of the game bag or a bulging stringer of fish that makes for memorable experiences. Those things are undeniably gratifying, but even more meaningful are the special closeness to family and friends the outdoors can provide, the linkage to the good earth that become palpable through the craftsmanship of a skilled wordsmith, and the elemental enchantment associated with the very acts of fishing and hunting.
Space constraints forbid in-depth coverage of individual stories, but there are a dozen of them in the first book and 15 more in the second volume.
You’ll find pathos and pleasure, mesmerism and magic, not to mention an overriding current of what might simply be described as connectivity to nature’s myriad wonders and the endlessly appealing allure of the sport.
Not only are the tales in these books told in excellent and, at times, exquisite fashion, both volumes have qualities all-too-often missing in self-published works. The quality of materials—paper, binding, dust jacket and the like is first-rate. My aging eyes, long ago abused by endless hours spent in poorly lit libraries and archives in the British Isles, also appreciated the generous type size.