June 29, 1987 12:00 PM

by John Hersey

Now in his 70s, the author of Hiroshima, The Wall and more than a dozen other works of fiction and nonfiction loves fishing off Martha’s Vineyard. Bluefishing to be exact. Hersey has a boat named Spray, and for the purposes of this information-packed book, hi takes to sea a never-identified and perhaps imaginary stranger who doesn’t approve fishing. With Hersey as his tutor, the strange catches a blue and is invited home, where the author cooks the fish (the recipe is provided and discourses on sea lore. Were you aware for example, how noisy it is underwater’ “Among many other fish sounds,” Hersey; writes, “are tomtom bumps, chicken clucks dog barks, foghorn moans, wrestlers’ grunt: and the noise made by a wet finger rubbed on a balloon. Oyster beds rattle. In many place: there is a sizzling sound, like that of bacon frying, or that of a short circuit, made by myriads of a small variety of shrimp clicking the claw joints.” Hersey also tells how a fisher man is made: “Maybe when you were bon your mother threw your umbilical cord in the sea, the way Fijian women used to do, to make their sons good fishermen.” At the end of each chapter are nautically inspired poems by James Merrill, Shakespeare, Rober Lowell, Richard Wilbur, Auden and other? Blues is an easygoing book, relaxed, casual perhaps a little pedantic but salty and genuinely enjoyable. (Knopf, $16.95)

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