Research Thursdays - “Jewfish,” a new novel by English Professor Andrew Furman
by P Burks | Thursday, Jun 18, 2020
Images (l/r): Book cover of “Jewfish;” Andrew Furman
“Jewfish” is the story of Nathan Pray, a foundering charter captain struggling to retain his close-to-nature, ocean-based existence in an increasingly urban South Florida. As if rising seas, urbanization, and toxic red tide blooms weren’t trouble enough, a rare cold snap in the subtropics has nearly obliterated his beloved snook population. What’s more, his domestic life has unraveled. Nathan’s father suffers through the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, his wife has left him for a more upstanding (and normal) Jewish husband, his adolescent son seems to have retreated into a dubious hip-hop identity, and his mother has her own problems. He’s a good man who just can’t catch a break. But Nathan’s luck just might be about to change. A lucrative sponsorship and a television role on a popular fishing program can be his for the taking if he will only compromise on some of his stubborn piscatorial principles. Inspired in equal parts by Ernest Hemingway, Bernard Malamud, and Saul Bellow, “Jewfish” chronicles the day-to-day life of a middle-aged fisherman, lovable in spite of his shortcomings, and shines a light on the environmental issues facing south Florida and the planet.
“In ‘Jewfish’ I set out to dramatize how the environmental threats we face in Florida – red tides, fish die-offs, global warming, and intensifying weather patterns – carry with them real human consequences. Beyond any environmental argument, as a writer I only want readers to feel like they were drawn into sympathy with these characters and that they cared about them, that their heads were a worthwhile place to be inside of for the duration of the book. But I do hope that the novel provokes readers (here in Florida and elsewhere) to think about their own relationship with their immediate environment. I fear that there’s an increasing “placelessness” about the way that we live our daily lives. So much of our daily lives are lived online or otherwise indoors. ‘Jewfish,’ and much of my work, actually, might be seen as my attempt to know my adopted home place of Florida more intimately. I feel that it’s important that we know our place, both literally and figuratively, wherever that place might be. – Andy Furman
Furman teaches in FAU’s MFA program in creative writing. His fiction and creative nonfiction frequently engage with the Florida outdoors, but he has also written about Jewish identity, basketball, lighthouses, swimming, and cast iron cookware. His other books include “Goldens are Here,” “Bitten: My Unexpected Love Affair with Florida,” which was named a finalist for the ASLE Environmental Book Award, “My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White,” and “Alligators May be Present.” His essays and stories have appeared in such publications as Oxford American, The Southern Review, Ecotone, The Wall Street Journal, Poets & Writers, Terrain.org, Flyway, and The Florida Review.
Furman has been at FAU since 1996. He received his Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University, concentrating in literature and the environment and multi-ethnic American literature.
“Jewfish” can be purchased at indiebound.org/book/9780996082549