Night Diver by Bucky McMahon


Reading Night Diver is the literary equivalent of having sex for the first time: frightening, blissful, transcendent, addictive, bejeweled with flashpoints of experience never to be forgotten. For my money, Bucky McMahon is the greatest -- also the most underappreciated, underrated and overlooked -- adventure travel writer working today, and one of the best on the team in that long scrimmage of yesterdays. Think of the spawn of weird marriages -- Sir Richard Burton and Barry Hannah; Twain and Krakauer--and you'll begin to get a fix on McMahon, a master essayist and luminous spokesman for the ineffable metaphysical moment lurking at the vortex of knee-buckling danger and heart-stopping fun. --Bob Shacochis

An absolutely magical writer, Bucky McMahon is one of the greatest to have ever stared at a blank page. In a cliché-ridden world, each story by Bucky is a miracle of discovery. He sees in the dark and finds beauty where most writers wouldn't dare to look. A character is never more human than when he is in these good hands. And a reader will never have a better guide across these landscapes. -- Mark Warren

Bucky McMahon is a word wizard. These essays take you deep underwater, slogging through the swamp, brachiating through the jungle, luffing past the lava flow, yawning in the classroom, yo-yoing on the open sea; and now and again just for good measure surfing the psychic cosmos. A humble heart and a fine intellect are here coupled to a flair for ecstasy, and as he says of Wakulla, mother of all springs, it is good, it is good, it is good. -- Janet Burroway

Bucky McMahon rides a raft down the Gulf Stream, messes with black howler monkeys in Belize, surfs rapacious waves off the coast of Nicaragua, dives the Andrea Doria, and, God help the boy, fools around in the depths -- literal and metaphorical -- of the state of Florida. You might think he's crazy. But that's not important. What's important is that he writes whip-smart, machete-sharp, by-damn prose, cooler than George Plimpton, hipper than John McPhee, funnier than Bill Bryson. -- Diane Roberts

Climate change is too vast for most of us to believe. The Gulf Stream might as well be fairy tale. But when Bucky McMahon jumps into a life raft 50 miles from Miami and floats alone through night and day, trying to grasp what the Gulf Stream really is, trying to experience it, we see the problem. In the best fiction, a writer finds a moment that reveals a life, distills it. In the best magazine writing, a writer finds this moment for a culture and time. That's Bucky McMahon's genius. He's funny and light, and you rip right along enjoying his tale, but then suddenly you realize he's done something important. -- David Vann


From "The Moon and Danzel Cabral"

I remarked that there seemed to be no hermit crabs on French Louis Caye, which struck me as strange, since I'd been on other islands in Belize where there were multitudes. "This island produces no shells, so there are no crabs," Rannie said, which reminded him of the time, back when he was lobster diving for a living and waiting out bad weather on an island much like this one. "That island had too many crabs and not enough shells -- a housing shortage. You'd throw a peanut shell to the ground and a crab would move into it. You ever see a crab change shells?" Rannie asked. That thought was vaguely shocking; it seemed to represent a lot of time spent watching crabs.

"They do it very carefully," he said, and described in great detail the measuring of the new shell, the turning of the shell hole-side-up, and how, once satisfied of its superiority, they'd hoist themselves up like a little man doing a push-up, and swing their ass over and drop it in. Drop and roll. One motion, very quick. "They don't like the chill on their butt."

On the island of too many crabs, Rannie had spent some idle rainy hours fashioning shells out of tin foil, and pretty soon there were tin crabs crawling all over the place. "Maybe they are still there, though when the sun hit them maybe it wasn't so good."

Was he speaking in parables, Danzel? I think maybe he was. I'd brought along a single bottle of rum in case of emergency, and it seemed to me an emergency had just arrived with the thought of tin crabs cooking in the sun. I fetched the bottle and poured us all a round. That was noon of the first day.

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