Justin Hocking is a skateboarder who loves Moby Dick and surfing in New York City. Hocking’s new memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, plays with the nonfiction form — the narrative isn’t completely linear and the voice in the book’s short chapters varies from first to second person. The story blends Hocking’s personal narrative with historical information about his hero, Herman Melville, and some contemporary musings on politics and the environment. But this sharply written story it hangs together as a whole, telling the tale of an anxious guy from Colorado following his literary dreams to New York and finding inspiration in unexpected places.
Hocking writes about his fear of riding the subway underneath the East River:
I’m trapped three hundred feet below a polluted river — so deep that my eardrums pop — hurtling along at top speeds, with no way to stop what I’ve put into motion, to slap on the brakes and eject myself from this whole noisy, grimy, two-thousand-miles-from-home ride onto which I’ve willingly hitched myself. Suddenly my heart is a pipe bomb inside the suitcase of my chest, threatening to blow apart not just my body but also this entire train car and all the two hundred strangers who are about to witness me completely blow apart. I’ve been told that it will take me a few months to get used to the city, that these kinds of freak-outs are normal, but this does not feel normal, at all.
Justin Hocking will be reading at Powell’s City of Books at 7:30pm on Wednesday, February 26.
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OPB | Feb. 22, 2017