Published by Penguin Books on October 1st 1998
Genres: Magical Realism
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He could outrun anybody, and he never missed a day of school. He saved lives, tamed giants. Animals loved him. People loved him. Women loved hi (and he loved them back). And he knew more jokes than any man alive.
Now, as he lies dying, Edward Bloom can't seem to stop telling jokes -or the tall tales that have made him, in his son's eyes, an extraordinary man. Big Fish is the story of this man's life, told as a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts his son, William, knows. Through these tales -hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous- William begins to understand his elusive father's great feats, and his great failings.
‘[…] I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I’d never done that before. And these images — the now and then of my father — converged, and at that moment he turned into a weird creature, wild, concurrently young and old, dying and newborn.
My father became a myth.’
Edward Bloom is an enigma of a man that has always told only the most elaborate yet unbelievable tales of his life. He is a traveling businessman that rarely comes home, even though he has a wife and a son forever waiting for him. Being home so little forces his son, William, to put these tall tales together in his mind in the hope that his father might become less of a mystery to him. When Edward comes home to stay because he’s dying, William seeks to learn as much as he can about his father before it’s too late.
‘Beneath one facade there’s another facade and then another, and beneath that the aching dark place, his life, something that neither of us understands.’
The tall tales of the man named Edward Bloom are the very definition of far-fetched, yet being the only stories he has ever told has transformed them into a type of myth thus transforming him into an inspiring hero of his own making. He’s encountered a giant and a two-headed Japanese geisha. He rode on the back of a giant catfish and explored an underwater town. There have been river-girls and all-seeing glass eyes and even a time when he saved a little girl from certain death by ripping out the very heart of a wild dog. Each piece of his life is told episodically but not always chronologically and serves only to heighten the mystery.
‘When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.’
William’s insistence on discovering the true nature of his father never amounts to much as Edward continues to shroud himself in his stories steeped in fantasy. But it ultimately becomes unnecessary anyway. Magical realism runs rampant in this tale, yet at the heart of the story, it’s simply about the unconditional love between a father and son.