Marquesa is a book penned well before the existence of blogs, but it is the type of published work every fly fishing blogger wishes he’d written. Author Jeffrey Cardena’s account of his solitary venture by houseboat in the Marquesas Keys, an atoll sitting 30 miles west of Key West, is as compelling a first person fishing narrative as you’ll read.
Cardenas was, and still is, a well-regarded Keys fishing guide, but his words are not confined to that world. He writes without pretense, in a natural voice that perfectly reflects his sheer joy and wonderment from being immersed in this wilderness with tarpon, permit, sharks and even cassiopea. He limits his descriptions of the actual fly fishing–a very good thing–and when he does talk about it he avoids altogether the angler as hunter-hero stalking prey vibe that bogs down much outdoor writing. Plus, Cardenas is well aware of the historical, cultural, and political significance of his surroundings and his weaving of that into the work gives it heft.
It seems weird to be writing a review of a book first published in 1995. But it has been out of print for years now and, in the process has attained a cult status. I first heard of it in a conversation two years ago, and had been trying in vain to find a copy not selling for $400 on eBay. That Departure Publishing** has republished it as an ebook has given it a rebirth and an entirely new audience. (It parallels the release of Tarpon on dvd, both in buzz and in quality of content.)
As an ex-Floridian who never made the crossing to the Marquesas Keys, I had great expectations for this book. Marquesa met them; I found it hard to put the Kindle down. Cardenas ends the book perfectly but too soon. I want more, and more than ever, I want to get there.
**(Yeah, my book is published by Departure too, but I have no vested interest in posting about this one. I paid full price for it and wrote this review unsolicited.)