Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions
In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do—and do well. He could outrun anybody. He never missed a day of school, even in the worst blizzard. He saved lives. Animals loved him, people loved him, women loved him. He was an inspired salesman—a visionary, in fact. And he knew more jokes than any man alive. Or at least that’s what he’s told his son, William. William doesn’t really know his father because, actually, Edward wasn’t home all that much. What William knows about his father he’s had to piece together from the little bits of stories he’s gathered over the years. Now, watching his father die, William grows increasingly desperate to know him before it’s too late. And in a wonderful sleight of hand, William recreates his elusive father’s life in a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts he knows. Through these tales, William begins to understand Edward Bloom’s great feats—and his great failings. He manages, somehow, to reckon with the father he’s about to lose. And he finds a way to say good-bye.
In Big Fish, Daniel Wallace angles in search of a father and hooks instead a fictional debut as winning as any this year. From his son’s standpoint, Edward Bloom leaves much to be desired. He was never around when William was growing up; he eludes serious questions with a string of tall tales and jokes. This is subject matter as old as the hills, but Wallace’s take is nothing if not original. Desperate to know his father before he dies, William recreates his father’s life as the stuff of legend itself. In chapters titled “In Which He Speaks to Animals,” “How He Tamed the Giant,” “His Immortality,” and the like, Edward Bloom walks miles through a blizzard, charms the socks off a giant, even runs so fast that “he could arrive in a place before setting out to get there.” In between these heroic episodes, Bloom dies not once but four times, working subtle variations on a single scene in which he counters his son’s questions with stories—some of which are actually very witty, indeed. After all, he admits, “…if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that’s all you’d have: a bunch of doubts. But now, see, you’ve got all these great jokes.” The structure is a clever conceit, and the end product is both funny and wise. At the heart of both legends and death scenes live the same age-old questions: Who are you? What matters to you? Was I a good father? Was I a good son? In mapping the territory where myth meets everyday life, Wallace plunges straight through to fatherhood’s archaic and mysterious heart. —Mary Park
Director Tim Burton’s adaptation of author Daniel Wallace’s bittersweet Southern Gothic novel has been billed as his first mainstream character drama, a notion that conveniently ignores the story’s inherent fables and flights of imagination. But composer Danny Elfman understands their every dark nook and murky cranny with this magical, often deftly understated score. While the epic melodrama of his comic book scores (Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, et. al.) have made him a mainstream Hollywood music star, longtime fans know that the composer’s…
After a string of mediocre movies, director Tim Burton regains his footing as he shifts from macabre fairy tales to Southern tall tales. Big Fish twines in and out of the oversized stories of Edward Bloom, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Down with Love) and as a dying father by Albert Finney (Tom Jones). Edward’s son Will (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) sits by his father’s bedside but has little patience with the old man’s fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father…