…Sometimes, very good books make me nervous. Usually I feel all of the things one should: invigorated, my faith in literature (and even life!) restored to such a degree that all of the frustrations of fiction writing feel worth it. But there are also times when a book is too good, when I begin think, what’s the point? No matter how hard I work I’ll never be able to do this.
“‘Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted,’ Robert Louis Stevenson once noted, ‘certain coasts are set apart for ship-wreck.’ And so we find ourselves on working class Loyalty Island, the setting for Nick Dybek’s potent coming of age novel, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man.”
Dybek isn’t just alluding to Stevenson, but also riffing on Richard II and something of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, while dropping in Japanese auteurs and Greek mythology, to weave in heavily freighted dreams and the vaguely supernatural.