Sea of Hooks
  • Author: Hill, Lindsay
  • Binding: Clothbound, sewn, jacketed
  • Pages: 351
  • Size: 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pub. Year: 2013
  • ISBN: 978-1-62054-006-0
  • In Stock: Yes
Price: $25.00

STOP THE PRESSES: February 16, 2016, Sea of Hooks wins 2016 Dactyl Foundation Literary Fiction Award

Sea of Hooks is one of the most celebrated fiction debuts of recent years.
[Note that a Kindle edition is now available.]
Here are some of the accolades it has received:


Citation by Stacey D'Erasmo: "A glittering, prismatic, astonishingly original collage of fragments that make up the life and soul of Christopher Westall, a character with a mind as big as the world. Hill’s range, sentence to sentence, scene to scene, juxtaposition to juxtaposition, is nothing short of virtuoso, as is his mastery in articulating and exploring emotions of nearly unbearable ambiguity, contradiction, grief, and love, along with spiritual seeking. Christopher goes from San Francisco to Bhutan, from deep within himself to the furthest reaches of his relationships with others, tracing an unconventional course that is as heartbreaking as it is delightful. An adventure of body, mind, and soul unlike any other."

WINNER OF THE 2014 PEN CENTER USA FICTION AWARD: Citation: "Sea of Hooks, by poet Lindsay Hill, is a fractured novel, constructed of short, titled paragraphs, that beautifully captures the fractured psyche of its protagonist, Christopher Westall. 'Every single thing depends on shattering,' reads the entirety of one section, and another, describing Christopher’s fragile mother, simply reads, 'Evelyn wanted nothing to be broken.' Christopher is broken—by his mother’s suicide, by childhood sexual abuse by a tutor, by the loss of his one real friend, in a fire—but in sifting through the shards of his childhood, and a trip to Bhutan in his early twenties, he reconstructs his self. This is a coming-of-age story that depends on shattering. It is never maudlin, and often wry, especially in its observations of San Francisco society; the narrative—for there is a narrative, and it’s often suspenseful, despite its non-linear form—is surprising and moving. Hill’s characters are complicated and vividly rendered and his precise, evocative language makes Sea of Hooks a thrill to read."

FINALIST FOR THE CHAUTAUQUA PRIZE. Citation: "In the novel Sea of Hooks, the reader gathers and rebuilds the fragments of wildly imaginative Christopher Westall’s traumatic young life as he travels from San Francisco to Bhutan. 'Every paragraph is like a tiny jewel of a chapter,' readers said, noting that Hill 'is able in one sentence to evoke pain, grief, pleasure, joy.'” [This national literary award is relatively new. Chautauqua Institution received 155 books (fiction and nonfiction) from 78 publishers as nominations for the 2014 Chautauqua Prize, each evaluated by three reviewers representing a panel of Chautauquans who are professionally involved with books and the literary arts. Twenty-nine titles received recommendations from at least two of the three reviewers and advanced to the longlist stage. A three-person, independent, anonymous jury chose the six finalists and winner.]

What if the world—with all its signs and signals, its schedules and habits and goals, the matrix of friends, the unspoken codes of conduct—were emptied of ordinary meaning? What if the debris from the streets of your childhood spoke more urgently to you, with messages and wonders that compelled you to enter another world, a world whose broken pieces converged at the junctures of vision and illusion, of life and death. In this astonishing debut novel centered around an alarmingly imaginative young man, we witness both trauma and transformation as Christopher Westall journeys from San Francisco to Bhutan to reconstruct himself. His life is shattered into a thousand shards, hints, signs and tangled threads that the reader pursues and gathers and reconstructs into a reading experience like no other. As memory and dream, fear and resilience exert their several tidal pulls, his life tilts, collides, reverses, dissolves and reemerges, glistening in the depths of the Sea of Hooks. By the end, like Christopher, you will very likely reclaim parts of yourself thought to have been treasures of childhood lost forever.


PUBLISHERS WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW: "This first novel by poet and one-time banker Hill is less a novel, in the traditional sense, than a spiritual biography. Christopher Westall, raised in San Francisco in the 1950s and heady ’60s, is the only child of an alcoholic and distant father and an eccentric, meddling mother. The boy is alarmingly fragile and sensitive, and possessed by a soaring imagination and a slew of fascinating theories about sound, ice, 'knife people' under his bed, and, most significantly, a world from which 'messengers' communicate with him via random detritus he picks up in the street—slips of paper, foil from cigarette packs, etc. These he orders into a fantasy world. Repeated sexual abuse by a tutor makes escapism even more urgent for the 12-year-old, as do subsequent tragedies: his mother’s suicide in his bed; his father’s career misfortunes and early death. Not until Christopher is befriended by an older man named Dr. Thorn does a kind of mentoring occur; indeed, Dr. Thorn’s counsel—and final messages—delivers Christopher to a form of peace, achieved through the practice of Buddhism and a pilgrimage to Bhutan when the latter is an adult. But it is Hill’s language that dominates this story, which is told in fractured bits, not unlike the messengers. Christopher’s meditations on death, memory, the relations of bones to the self, not to mention rain and snow and fog and the cosmos, are mystical, highly poetic and musically rendered—an almost impossibly sustained performance from beginning to end. Nearly every paragraph astonishes, every moment rich with magic and daring. Reminiscent of Robert Pirsig and Herman Hesse in its concern with authenticity, Sea of Hooks also has the unbearable anguish of Kafka’s diaries—making for an unforgettable trip."

"Sea of Hooks is brilliant. Mr. Hill, a sometime-banker and longtime poet, spent twenty years writing Sea of Hooks, a novel so audacious, so intricately constructed, that it was a reading experience unlike any I’ve ever had. And it completely reinvents the bildungsroman in the process. ...It’s a novel that proves that the complexities of one young man’s daily life, his preoccupations and his nightmares, and above all, his compassion, can be extraordinarily fascinating, suspenseful, and revelatory."--Carolyn Oliver, Rosemary and Reading Glasses

Read the opening pages from the novel in the fall issue of New England Review: Opening chapters

Conjunctions magazine features a later excerpt from Sea of Hooks


Allison Cobb, Glyph Art Center: Arresting Beauty

Carolyn Oliver, Rosemary and Reading Glasses: Recommended Reading

Kassie Rose, The Longest Chapter: Have you seen me?

Carolyn Oliver, Rosemary and Reading Glasses: An Interview with Lindsay Hill

Robert Birnbaum, OURMANINBOSTON: Sea of Hooks

Candace Opper Review: "a sensation of unexplainable familiarity"

April Baer's interview at Oregon Public Broadcasting: Lindsay Hill's Long Labors

Glyph Art Space: An exhibition of journals and artifacts from Lindsay Hill's 20-year-long project of writing Sea of Hooks

Chosen by New York Magazine as a Top 10 Book of 2013: The Year in Culture 2013

The Top 10 Northwest Books of 2013: Sea of Hooks #1

Seattle's ACT Theater stages a dramatic reading of Sea of Hooks: Sea of Hooks: A Stage Presentation

Publishers Weekly names Sea of Hooks one of this year's top five novels:"Best Books of 2013"

Publishers Weekly declares Sea of Hooks "The Most Underrated Book of 2013"

Publishers Weekly Radio features an interview with Lindsay Hill: "How writing poetry enabled the writing of a novel"

Seven questions for Lindsay Hill: Interview with Laura Stanfill

Review by Charles R. Larson in Counterpunch: Hell is Other People

Review by Maya Muir in The Oregonian: One of the Best Books of the Year

Review by Moira Macdonald in Seattle Times: Navigating the Past's Dark Waters

Publishers Weekly features Sea of Hooks among its picks this season: The Big Indie Books of Fall 2013

To avoid any confusion, please note that a few years ago Arundal Press of Seattle issued the short lyric poem that serves as the epigraph of this novel as a small limited edition letterpress booklet under the same title, Sea of Hooks.

"Lindsay Hill's Sea of Hooks begins with a man named Christopher Westall staring at his mother's asphyxiated body. Her suicide is only the latest in a long series of traumatic events in Christopher's life, and it creates an emotional fissure that widens into a vast gulf between life before and after her death. The narrative splits accordingly, weaving together two chronologies: one timeline describes his dysfunctional youth; the other follows his trip to Bhutan after his mother's suicide. His upbringing is almost a parody of Victorian repression, while the trip to the "Far East" in search of spiritual healing is a painfully well-worn trope. Nevertheless, Sea of Hooks is an impressive work that uses . . . [a] fractured format to great effect, benefiting from Hill's powerful poetic sensibility...."--Shelf Awareness for Readers more...

Lindsay Hill was born in San Francisco and graduated from Bard College. Since 1974, he has published six books of poetry and his work has appeared in a wide variety of literary journals. Sea of Hooks is his first novel, the product of nearly twenty years of work. His other writing and editorial projects include...


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