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Comment: Copyright 2011, softcover. All pages are clean.
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Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa Paperback – October 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Armchair explorers, rejoice! Richard Grant has gone where we dare not and brought back the news in all its rich, harrowing and lucid detail. The best book about Africa since Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari.” --T.C. Boyle, author of The Women and When the Killing’s Done

“Heading for Tanzania, intent on exploration- a first descent of the Malagarasi River-, Richard Grant instead finds himself in the shadow of Burton and Speke, Stanley and Livingston on an altogether unexpected frontier of the unknown- the reality of contemporary Africa. The result is a kaleidoscopic romp through chaos, contradiction, madness and wonder. A fierce account, honestly told, and refreshingly frank.” –Wade Davis, author of One River and Into the Silence

“In his last book when he was being chased by killers in Mexico for a couple days I questioned Richard Grant’s sanity in trying to be the first to travel the length of Tanzania’s Malagarasi River. The hippos and crocodiles are the problem, also the dreadful diseases that daily afflict you. This is a truly wonderful book about East Africa.” –Jim Harrison, author of Returning to Earth

“Way back when, we crawled out of the Great Rift in Africa. Richard Grant explains that this ancient womb is the theater of our future. This coming world will have a lot of people fighting over dwindling piles of junk. This future will looks a lot like murder. This time we are all going down Crazy River and forget the damn life jackets. They belong to the past we devoured. Let Richard Grant take you to your new home. But let me warn you: we will not get home before dark.” —Charles Bowden, author of Murder City

“As he did in God's Middle Finger, Grant takes us into a world where few willingly venture. His feverish journey from Zanzibar, down an uncharted river and into the broken heart of 21st century Africa is by turns funny, poignant, frightening and deeply disturbing. The future Grant shows us with such lucidity and compassion is one his predecessors, Stanley, Livingstone and Burton could never have envisioned.” –John Vaillant, author of The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

Fear and loathing in East Africa as travel writer Grant traverses the ravaged continent in search of a mysterious river and the source of the Nile...Dyspeptic, disturbing and brilliantly realized, Grant’s account of Africa is literally unforgettable." --Kirkus Reviews

"A mixture of offbeat characters and travelogue, an entertaining and informative first-person account of a man who’s very much out of his element but very keen to learn everything he can." --Booklist

"Grant’s gift for getting detoured...makes this one of the year’s most surprising adventure books, taking us well beyond jungle and river..part sociologist, part journalist, and “more interested in what happened along the way than achieving goals or reaching destinations.” --Men's Journal

"as detailed in this thoroughly engrossing new book, Crazy River: Exploration and Folly in East Africa, Grant's quest for adventure and discovery didn't go unrewarded." --Tucson Weekly

"This is Grant’s third travel book, and he strikes a wonderful balance between evoking the sepia-toned, blood-stained, imperialist past and the hungry, gritty independent realism of modern East Africa. Never one to focus on his own accomplishments, and slow to judge others, he manages to serve up equal portions of humility and pathos." --Lonely Planet

"To discover Africa is a quest that has burned away at the European soul since Ptolemy. Richard Grant goes on his own by bus, boat and foot to reach the source of the (White) Nile and find out what really drives Africa." --San Francisco Book Review

About the Author

Richard Grant is an award-winning author, journalist, and television host. His books include Crazy River, the adventure classic God’s Middle Finger, and American Nomads, which has since been made into a BBC documentary of the same name.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Original edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439154147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439154144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mzeina on November 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
this book is well written and educational pageturner. author gives a realistic and wide picture of life in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. i will look forward to read more of his stuff, at least what he has available on kindle. and if the author ever reads this review - you are welcome to travel in south sinai. here are some wild places left and i know the beduin tribes and places. if you are interested please leave a note below this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Matt M. Martin on January 31, 2014
Format: Paperback
Richard Grant's "Crazy River" is great for a reason seldom seen in travel narratives: none of his plans work out. Most travel writers have unforeseen troubles, sure, but the original narrative arc of their trip remains intact; in "Crazy River," things veer off the course of Grant's plans so much the plans themselves become meaningless burdens.

Grant plans to travel to Africa to make the first descent of the Malagarasi River. As soon as he arrives in Africa, though, that plan gets stymied at every point along the way, leaving Grant to flounder in bureaucratic equivocation and the tedium of indecision--and this all makes for a much better book. The most important word in the title is "folly."

Grant does get to do a descent of the Malagarasi River, sort of, but it's telling that the descent only takes up a third of the book. The descent is hobbled by failure and hippopotamuses, shallows, narrows, and poachers, showing that for most early explorers, the act of exploration was so much more hassle than discovery, just like the joy of backpacking disappears when you have to bushwhack for days on end. Sometimes places are undiscovered because they're just too much trouble.

So, instead, we have Grant in and around East Africa, meeting a gregarious young playboy in Dar Es Salaam, seeing the city, meeting the locals, having calmer but also livelier adventures, seeing the opportunistic fatalism of acquaintance after acquaintance. Eventually he's able to go down the river, and the whole thing falls to bits immediately, and that's great too, because, abandoned, Grant gets creative. He travels to Burundi and Rwanda, speaking with Joseph Kagame, but really just experiencing those places as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frosty T. Kat on November 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Grant is one of my favorite travel writers because he bravely puts himself out there to give the reader the best possible insights and vicarious adventures into exotic and often dangerous locations. He also does his homework and provides background material without becoming pedantic or tedious, balancing history with ongoing anecdotes and events, spiced by sharp wit and character observation.
In "Crazy River", he goes to Tanzania in an effort to recreate the Burton and Speke 19th century expedition to find the source of the Nile, venturing forth despite disrupted travel plans, improvising as best as he can as he journeys onto a little-traveled, poacher, bandit, hippo and crocodile infested stretch of the Malagarasi river. He gets deliriously sick with jungle fever, is exposed to nighttime gunfire from poachers, and participates in white-water, white-knuckled plunges in a flimsy rubber raft with his African companions. Along the way we learn about the poverty and ecological devastation plaguing so much of Africa, and how cattle raising is such a habitat killer.
From Tanzania he crosses to Burundi, Africa's poorest and possibly most chaotic country, where he encounters heart-breaking poverty and kind and hospitable people, including a native who shares his humble home as well as a white French expatriate who runs his own orphanage and school and is amusingly obsessed with a 20 foot, man-eating crocodile named Gustave.
From there he goes to Rwanda, a nation scarred by the Hutu-Tutsi genocide. He recounts the awful history of the genocide, visits the museum dedicated to it and interviews the benevolent, and sinister dictator, President Kagame, whose iron-fist rule has turned Rwanda into Africa's most prosperous country, where ethnic tensions have been suppressed, awaiting a possible rekindling after his passing.
My thanks to Richard Grant for another great adventure. I look forward to the next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Actually, despite the title of my review, I did enjoy this book considerably, it is just that there wasn't actually that much of the book that was truly about the river. It was a mostly enjoyable and entertaining read, though at times I got annoyed with the author or with his portrayals of the various characters he met along the way. I am a resident of Tanzania and have traveled in Burundi and Rwanda as well, therefore I feel competent to say there were times that his reflections were spot on, but other times, he seemed to rely on stereotypes and hearsay. It is true that in the few months he was on the road, it would be impossible for him to have a "complete" experience (if anyone ever can?!?), but sometimes he presented himself as a bit of an authority in things of which he has a pretty limited view.

The last irksome bit was the way in which he expressed such relief at being back in America- hah- he was only there a couple of months- how can you get so worn out by Africa in only a couple of months??

All that said, I have no trouble recommending this book for anyone about to embark on an African adventure, especially one in East Africa, or anyone who knows someone there. It is a pleasant way to spend an autumn weekend, curled up by a nice fire with a cup of hot cocoa, or in the hotter climate of Dar es Salaam- on the beach with a cold gin and tonic.

PS I read the kindle version which did not have a map. If don't know if the hard copy version of the book has a map of Grant's route in it, but it would have been a nice thing to have.
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