Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.
My feelings about this book are inextricably linked with my memories of 1975 and how it affected me personally. I was a child, not even a pre-teen, and much more naïve than I think is even possible for children anymore, in this age of cable TV, google, and movies on demand. Jaws was everywhere. Everyone was talking about it. A few of my friends claimed that they had seen it, via either permissive parents or sneaking in. As I was not even allowed to go to the movies without a parent, I had no way of seeing it for myself. But my parents – so mindful of my TV and movie habits – never noticed what I was reading. Tolkien had already served as my gateway drug to fiction written for adults, and I was delighted when I got my hands on Jaws.
It did not give me nightmares, but it forever altered my mindlessly happy trips to the beach. Previously delightful hours bobbing in the surf were robbed from me, when I began to wonder what was under the surface of Galveston’s opaque brown waters. If “most shark attacks happen in three feet of water, ten feet from the beach,” then what was down there with my unseen legs and feet?
Rereading this book as an adult was an entirely different experience. Although not badly written, this book seems to be a muddle of themes dominant in popular culture at the time instead of a straightforward thriller about a man-eating shark terrorizing a small tourist town. The subplots of political corruption, mobsters, and a dissatisfied housewife's extramarital affair (zipless fuck, anyone?) really don’t drive the story forward. It would have been better served to focus the tension on public safety vs. the economic impact on the citizens of a town whose life and existence depend on a successful couple of months every summer.
This was the audiobook version, borrowed from my public library. Erik Steele was excellent as narrator and especially effective with the gravelly voicing of Quint.