American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

THE ARK OF THE MARINDOR (1998). This novel by Barry Targan (1932-?), who has published poetry and other prose, is his maiden voyage into the realm of maritime literature. The narrative is an inverted Odyssey: a woman sails away from the memory of an unfaithful spouse and a dead son. Incorporating flashbacks, Targan’s book details the concluding leg of a picaresque journey by middle-aged protagonist Katherine Dennison, from the steaming jungle of Southeast Asia to the foggy coastline of northeast America. Dennison is a seafarer’s daughter born at sea, a wartime photojournalist turned children’s writer, and, most importantly, a skilled sailor. She comes to realize that she has always believed in mythic creatures and sought mythic resolutions. In her search for sunken treasure (in the modern-day form of a valuable computer disk), the all-too-human characters with whom her argosy crosses paths include a powerful magus, a witless satyr, a violated sea nymph, and an amoral demon.

Like Ulysses, Dennison survives the deadly fury of nature and the calculating treachery of man by her wits, demonstrating a mastery of ship and self, eventually finding an epiphanic release from the vessel that has served as the lifelong incarnation of both her freedom and her restriction.

Victor Verney