Naked Sunfish – Best Bites
by: William M. Balson Jr.
Best Bites is a surprising first book of essays from Rick
Brown. My appetite has been whetted and there needs to
be more bites; we need more to make a complete meal. Rick
has a unique view of current life and of the foibles we
humans engage in. Not from a mean or misanthropic perspective,
but from the vantage point of a sharply observant witness
watching a ballgame through a knothole in left field.
He sees the things in the game that the commentators in
a skybox behind home plate can’t see. He sees where
the player missed and spit on his uniform knee, he sees
the shortstop adjusting his jock strap, the tick of nervousness
on the third base man’s face. But it boils down
to this; Rick; Rick sees the players as people, doing
a job, living their life with all the opportunities we
are presented with to fail or succeed. He gives us a human
account of the real world we live in and makes us all
more human by helping us see how we are active players
in the game.
There are several themes that run throughout his book.
One is the concept of the mundane. Mundane is often thought
to be a fancy way of saying boring. In our current society
anything that does not feature a light show, two back-up
bands, surgically augmented breasts, a fleet of limos
and a celebrity commentator to remind us what a scintillating
time the participants are having, is considered boring.
The mundane are the events that all of us share, the core
of our human existence and just as each of us live a life
that is uniquely ours, it is built of a number of common
building blocks we all know. Rick has a scholarly understanding
of what these common building blocks are and crafts rich
observation into events we can all recognize and appreciate.
One of the more touching essays is one called “Sunday
Solitude” which is nothing more than a terse list
of what a married man with a dog does on a quiet Sunday
at home alone. The terse list hints at a very connected,
rich life. There was another essay called “Coming
of Age” that brought a lump to my throat as it involved
the complex relationship between a father and son, my
father and I, all fathers and sons. “Mistah Wick”
made me laugh about the way the human spirit sometimes
chafes at the harnesses we all wear. A seldom seen truth
was displayed with humanity and humor. Using a baseball
metaphor I would say, “Good eye Rick, good eye”.
For wry humor the essay “When to Buy a New Lawnmower”,
made me laugh and recognize myself in this peek at a younger
“Best Bites” is an easy read but I have already
gone back to a few essays to read again and I admit a
few are disturbing and I can’t get out of my mind.
It is more layered than a casual reading can reveal. If
you do yourself a favor and read “Best Bites’
by Rick Brown you will be going back to it to reread some
parts. It is a great book to own and would make a inspired
gift for the right person.
Finally, Rick, I also regret …”tube tops ever
went out of style”.
Naked Sunfish – Best Bites
by: Jimmy Mak - Head Writer, Shadowbox Live
Being familiar with nakedsunfish.com, I expected to like
the book “Best Bites.” I was a little surprised,
however, at how much I liked it. Rick Brown weaves stories,
memories and (very) short theater scenes into a humorous
and touching memoir. These stories are the kind we can
all relate to … a little too well. They are funny,
poignant and full of attitude – whether describing
how to use a weed whacker as a threatening weapon, why
it’s important to eat sardines with the guts or
how to win a pencil-sharpening contest with a pen.
Robert Penn Warren once described Hemingway’s soul
as a fist clutching a rose. I picture Rick’s soul
as a middle finger with a heart tattoo. Good books are
full of wisdom, complete with laughs and tears. “Best
Bites” is a good book.
In many of the vignettes Rick casually mentions something
and then adds "But that's another story." I,
for one, hope there are many "other stories"