SURFING IN FAR ROCKAWAY, OBSESSION, AND MOBY-DICK CONVERGE IN THIS DYNAMIC AND COMPELLING MEMOIR
—Winner of the 2015 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction
—A Finalist for the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction
—A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection
—Listed as one of Ten Brilliant Books That Will Grab You from Page One in Kirkus Reviews and The Huffington Post
—Selected by Hector Tobar as his Favorite Book of 2014 in Publisher's Weekly and Salon.com
—A Library Journal Best Books of 2014 Selection
—A Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014 Selection
—A Hudson's Books 2014 Booksellers Favorite
—A Book Club pick for April 2014 on The Nervous Breakdown
—A #3 Denver Post Bestseller
About the Book
Justin Hocking lands in New York hopeful but adrift—he’s jobless, unexpectedly overwhelmed and disoriented by the city, struggling with anxiety and obsession, and attempting to maintain a faltering long-distance relationship. As a man whose brand of therapy has always been motion, whether in a skate park or on a snow drift, Hocking needs an outlet for his restlessness. Then he spies his first New York surfer hauling a board to the subway, and it’s not long before he’s a member of the vibrant and passionate surfing community at Far Rockaway. But in the wake of a traumatic robbery incident, the dark undercurrents of his ocean-obsession pull him further and further out on his own night sea journey.
With Moby-Dick as a touchstone, and interspersed with interludes on everything from the history of surfing to Scientology’s naval ties to the environmental impact of the Iraq War, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is a multifaceted and enduring modern odyssey from a memorable and whip-smart new literary voice.
“As generous as it is smart, as intimate as it is grand, as illuminating as it is dark. With grace and guts, Justin Hocking dares to go where few men have gone before: not only out to sea, but also into the depths of the human heart.”
—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
"In this appealing memoir, the young author finds salvation from a dead-end Manhattan office job in an activity not often associated with New York City: surfing. . . . The passages about surfing and the relationships it fosters are filled with excitement and tenderness. It's hard not to cheer for [Hocking].
—The New Yorker
"A lovely, measured, and complex examination of how we manage to heal ourselves amidst the messy tumult of the world around us—a quiet and brilliant achievement of both emotion and technique.”
—John D'Agata, author of About a Mountain and judge of the 2015 Oregon Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction
“Searching, gutsy, and vulnerable, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is a deeply felt account of a young man’s aching coast-to-coast search for an emotional home in the world. The settings and quasi-romances couldn’t feel more contemporary—anti-depressants and underground New York skateparks, sleeping pills and cold water surf breaks in the Pacific Northwest. But the journey couldn’t be more universal, painful, and worthwhile.”
—Daniel Duane, author of Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast
“Through stylistic understatement and perfect tonal pitch. . . . Hocking ultimately transcends ‘the dark Ahab force.’”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"With nearly pitch-perfect tone, Hocking impressively builds [Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld] around a series of tension-and-release vignettes that roll through the narrative like waves. . . . Hocking's journey will prove relevant and immediate in its exploration of maturation and experiencing both spiritual collapse and, eventually, renewal."
"Hocking is earnest and candid, and he writes well about nature . . . invigorating."
—The New York Times Review of Books
"Hocking is an enormously talented wordsmith, and this account of a cash-poor but culturally rich New York life is funny, self-effacing and unfailingly erudite. He is a writer's writer, a master of drop-dead gorgeous similes and metaphors . . . The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is as original a New York writer's memoir as you're likely to read. Rarely has modern day New York been captured so viscerally and sensually."
—Hector Tobar in Publisher's Weekly
"Hocking doesn't dwell on his misfortunes, or cast himself as the hero. Instead, Wonderworld focus on a more common, less headline-catching narrative: the small, lovely, but difficult, ways human beings heal in a world rife with mistakes and misjudgments, wrongdoing and despair. . . . [The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld] is reflective and honest, with charm and just the right amount of innocence."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"One of the most satisfying memoirs I have read in years, a book both moving and sagaciously written."
—David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy
"A graceful, insightful, candid and charming coming-of-age story unlike any other."
—Barnes & Noble, Discover Great New Writers selection
“Melville-haunted, surfing-imbued, and wisdom-packed, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is a lucid and moving memoir. Hocking’s laid-back erudition and narrative generosity take us by the hand down a winding path at the end of which lies a new openness to the world’s wonder.”
—Antoine Wilson, author of Panorama City
“The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is transcendent. Justin Hocking explores what it means to be a skateboarder, a surfer, and a writer, and he lays bare the pains and joys of each, the surprising ways the endeavors mirror one another. The book is thrilling in its structure and moving in its emotion and conviction. The chapters roll like waves, carrying you along and breaking over you, washing you in revelation after revelation.”
—Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
"It's so refreshing to see authors—especially those making their debut—shoot for the moon. Hocking's Wonderworld is deliciously ambitious in its goals: in the course of this memoir, Hocking not only tells us his story, but also manages to educate us on the history of surfing and, even more compelling, Herman Melville's life and the writing of Moby-Dick. Despite these lofty goals, there's zero sense of pretense to this book. I'm not sure how he pulls all this off, but I suspect it has to do with the stellar quality of the writing: conversational, yet poetically rhythmic and precise, funny, heartbreaking, subtle, and always just enough."
—Kelly Luce, author of Three Scenarios
“This nightshade journey reflects on the inner Ahab inside all of us. . . . Melvillian arcana abounds, leading to a profound journey into Moby-Dick’s infinitude of meanings, mixed with inopportune break dancing, a harrowing carjacking, and a meditation on the redemptive power of skateboarding and surfing, the allure of waves and the sea, and life itself.”
—Jocko Weyland, author of The Answer Is Never
"In this elegant hybrid of homage to Melville and memoir, Hocking examines timeless archetypes and questions their pertinence in his own life . . . Hocking’s lack of vanity in describing his tough years in New York is noteworthy, as is his devotion to Moby Dick. His admiration for Melville’s opus does not prevent him from telling a compelling story of his own."
—Library Journal, Starred Review
"Our society doesn’t often make space for men to talk about their messy inner emotional lives; Hocking’s memoir, The Great Floodgates of The Wonderworld, does just that through a thumping mix of surfing and Moby-Dick."
"Melville called Ishmael a 'dreamy, meditative man.' So is Justin Hocking. From his modern masthead, he sees a capacious and generous world, one he brings to life in this erudite and introspective memoir."
"This is a book about obsessions. . . . and anxieties, which, in some ways, makes it a perfect memoir for our times. Hocking collects the seemingly disparate experiences of his life and uses deftness, humility and humor to create a readable, relatable story of one life well examined."
—Kathleen Holt, Oregon Humanities
"Let’s be honest: literary memoirs detailing New York’s bohemian underbelly are not in short supply, and the prospect of yet another can easily divide any crowd of seasoned readers. So I must urge you to banish these preconceptions from your mind. On the rare occasions Justin Hocking retreads familiar ground, he does so with such elegance and endless sincerity you’ll struggle to remember it being done better. More likely, he’ll surprise you."
"Hocking's tone is reassuringly down-to-earth. The frequent references to Melville, which might have been tedious in another writer, in his hands feel unpretentious, and helpfully bind together the book's nonlinear vignettes."
"Hocking’s obsessions always expand on rather than detract from his story, and by the end of the book we learn almost as much about Herman Melville as we do about Justin Hocking. In a genre often oversaturated with writers offering familiar brands of experience and redemption, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld stands out for its unique blend of formal innovation, graceful prose, and unusual take on a familiar narrative."
—Brenna Kischuk, The Angle Magazine
"Hocking’s genius is in his sincere, un-self-conscious performance of the countervailing dynamism of literature, the paradoxical way that a work of narrative art can give a sense of closure while denying that same satisfaction to its own characters."