Outside is about fishing in the way that The Rings of Saturn is about a moody man going for a walk. Though at some point in nearly all these pieces fish – pike, roach, grayling, bass, zander – do appear, the book’s real subject is Being Outside: and the stress is on being.
McCully is writing from outside whatever comfort zone his life once offered. He has left his former academic employment, left the UK, left marriages and friends, left the prop of alcohol, and moved to a particularly bleak part of Holland, composed of mud, wind, rain, murk, and fish. He is outside his own culture, about which he is a self-confessed grump.
Though he makes little fuss, there is a powerful sense of struggle verging on desperation, of loneliness pursued, fought against, and accepted. Throughout these mini-essays, his connection with the world is through a fishing rod – lightning conductor, staff and nodding friend – in what he identifies as