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On a Wave

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  101 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
In this prizewinning poet's wry and exhilarating coming-of-age story, Thad Ziolkowski's On a Wave poignantly looks back at adolescence in a memoir of his surfing years. As a disenchanted, unemployed English professor, Thad decides one day to sneak away from his temp job in Manhattan and catch a wave off a dingy Queens shoreline. In the meager cold waves, he contemplates ho ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 6th 2003 by Grove Press (first published 2002)
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Nov 12, 2009 Jenna rated it really liked it
Shelves: water, memoir
For some reason I thought this was going to be a young adult novel, but it turns out to be a memoir. Ziolkowski is a poet, director of the Pratt Institute's writing program, and his prose is clear and simple. Not simple as in naive or inelegant, but unadorned, quiet...simple. There's that great poem, "Soonest Mended," by John Ashberry where he writes: "This was our ambition: to be small and clear and free." On a Wave is a little like that.

Set during Ziolkowski's childhood in Florida, it has that
The story of a man who was a boy addicted to surfing. It's poignant and really beautiful at times, and kind of a coming of age story about finding (and losing) something you're passionate about, and about family and friendship and being a kid unable to entirely control your own path.

I have never surfed in my life, and I'm probably too terrified of the ocean to ever really learn, but I love the idea of it and I love reading about it and the people who are consumed by it. In this book I was reall
Darrell Reimer
Aug 10, 2012 Darrell Reimer rated it it was amazing
It's my first day at Apollo Elementary, named in honor not of the god but, like so much else in (Florida), the space program. Seen from a surfboard a few years later, the match-like flame of a rocket pulsing upward into the sky from Cape Canaveral will be as banal as a rainbow, remarkable at best for how unremarkable it has become.

How's that for surfer perspective? He's sitting on a board in the ocean, thinking the guy being shot into orbit is banal! Yes, Thad Ziolkowski's coming-of-age-on-a-sur
Megan C
Aug 22, 2011 Megan C rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
I was interested in this novel because Thad taught me in my freshman year at Pratt Institute. I had and still have very little interest in surfing, and while it encompasses much of the book, it's not the physical act of surfing that makes the story, but the gradual building of love for the sport and then the emptiness that takes its place afterwards. There's something about Thad's writing that so clearly gets across every feeling he has: I found myself carrying a disdain for Pat when there was n ...more
Nov 29, 2008 Garen rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. A classic bildungsroman the protagonist of which is a young boy in Florida who grows up surfing. The language is soft and lyrical. The novel tends to dwell upon the spiritual aspect of surfing at times, but I think there is definitely enough novel here, and it is so well written, that I think even non-surfing folk will find plenty here to hold their interest. The author has a curiously abstract style of description and his metaphors are often startlingly original and in ...more
May 24, 2010 J rated it really liked it
Recommended to J by: Matty
Favorite lines from the whole book - And as some one who surfs, nothing could be more true...

"I turn seaward to look for a wave. The last is often elusive; it's as if, like a lonely child, one too proud to say simply, "Don't go! I don't want you to go!," the ocean contrives indirect ways to prevent your leaving: lulls set in, or only below-average waves appear, and no one wants the last to be anything less than good."
Sep 29, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
This is a simple and beautiful book. Ziolkowski remembers well what it's like to be a teenage boy with his head in the waves. My head was in skateboarding. Others are into biking or skiing; it doesn't really matter. It's all about the sport, the culture, the cool guys, where you fit in, and the magazine pictures of the ultimate wave, skate ramp, mountain. School, girls, parents, all that is secondary. The end of Thad's days as a boy surfer broke my heart.
Nov 04, 2009 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mylibrary
Wistful and evocative ... Ziolkowski's portrait of youth and passion engulfs and resonates with luminous poignance and poetry. We are indeed on his wave.
Jun 14, 2009 Tatiana rated it liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: chris
For a sport i have no desire to try or follow, this book was nicely compelling. as that sort of sport-memoir book should be. mostly because the family dynamic was so closely tied to the surfing.
Mar 13, 2011 David rated it really liked it
ebook.... A very fascinating memoir of boyhood as seen through the lens of a surfer. "Surf Lit" at its finest.
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Thad Ziolkowski is the author of Our Son the Arson, a collection of poems, and a memoir, On a Wave, which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award in 2003. In 2008, he was awarded a fellowship from the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, Artforum, Travel & Leisure and Index. He directs the Writing Program ...more
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