“The central work of Raban’s life might be described as an effort to determine what America is like … But along with that, the reader notes, big water draws from Raban a kind of genius for natural description.” —Thomas Powers, The New York Review of Books
“The Northwest should feel itself lucky to have found a writer as fabulous—filled to overflowing with stories, meaning, and insight—as the landscape itself demands … It has been one of the great pleasures of the past twenty years to watch Raban discover this landscape for himself … to see [it] and its people with a clarify unmatched by most natives.” —Charles Petersen, Barnes and Noble
"Raban [here] showcases his craftsmanship as a writer and his bona fides as an intellectual. Every word is impeccably chosen, every metaphor meticulously selected.... [His] virtues are a writer are virtually unrivaled when it comes to explaining our relationships with landscapes and nature, and he's unrivaled, period, when describing water in all its forms, be it a placid puddle or a storm-swirled sea." —Phil Campbell, Columbia Journalism Review
could easily have been titled The Jonathan Raban Reader
, as the brisk, smartly crafted pieces are just that representative of [his] long and illustrative writing life....By combining them in one volume, Raban offers a lively stew of topics, themes that most interest the British citizen turned Seattleite, subjects that get him the most excited and riled....Readers have long been drawn to Raban for the elegance of his language and the eloquence of his thought and can expect to find the same in these essays." —Deborah Gwartney, The Oregonian
"This Englishman in America is weird, unfettered, scruffy and alive....Mr. Raban's best writing, which is most of it, is succulent under a crusty exterior, like a fish baked in salt. His stuff is yet more proof that Britons are better travel writers and essayists than Americans: drier, funnier, more argumentative."
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Raban knows that the best essayist trusts in drift and digression and habitually adds a literary trill. He is an erudite but adaptable companion, tart and genial, promiscuous in experience yet reliable in temperament....He conjures with his new home, with the Pacific Northwest, with history, poetry, geography, catastrophe...subjects Raban circumnavigates with finesse, shrugging off the obvious and regularly landing us on a shore we can't quite glimpse from here."
—Stacy Schiff, The New York Times Book Review
“A collection of essays about America and Americana . . . full of ideas that move through the language with the grace of a well-captained sailboat . . . Throughout, Raban reveals the traits that have long endeared him to his readers: a curiosity about the quirkiness of people and places, a ferocious love for the land, an elegance (but never pretentiousness) of style, self-deprecation, and an unusual ability to inhabit the imaginations of his interlocutors.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A delight . . . [Raban] stands detached from cant and superficiality, which is perhaps a prerequisite for the striking originalities and aperçus with which he leavens every article.” —Booklist
“It takes a passionate history buff to note how many of America’s virtues and vices have been present since independence and before, and a skilled raconteur to make us feel that passion.”—The Sunday Times
“Teems with acerbic humor, but it contains, too, a wealth of astute cultural and historical observation of the Pacific Northwest [as well as] one of the finest examples of the reporting of a natural disaster ever published . . . Relentlessly intelligent . . . Erudite, witty, and combative.”—The Guardian
“Raban writes about water in the way that Barry Lopez writes about snow or Wilfred Thesiger wrote about sand: it’s not always in the foreground of his observation, but you can sense his natural element in his whole way of seeing. Water seems to ebb and eddy through his prose, giving it its saltiness and flow.”—The Observer
“These essays [display] the full force of Raban’s remarkable talent, infused with the profound intellectual ease and quiet authority that only a writer with as much steadying ballast of good work as Raban has could muster.”—The Evening Standard