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Comment: There is minor wear to the cover and edges. There is an ink smudge on the front cover.
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The Survival of the Bark Canoe Paperback – May 1, 1982


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The Survival of the Bark Canoe + The Pine Barrens + Coming into the Country
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (May 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1899863583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1899863587
  • ASIN: 0374516936
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In an age of mass-produced and disposable objects, traditional crafts are becoming extinct, and appreciation for craftsmanship has become a hobby for the wealthy dilettante. But here and there, a few stalwart individuals carry on the old traditions. Henri Vaillancourt of Greenville, New Hampshire is in large part responsible for the continuing survival of the birch bark canoe. McPhee tells the story not only of Vaillancourt and his work, but of the canoe's role in American history. Many McPhee fans consider this lovely and lucid book one of his finest works.

Review

“In his own beautifully crafted work, McPhee treats both man and boat with all the respect and admiration their precarious presence commands.” -- Time

“Every white water and wilderness buff should rise to it like a trout, but as all followers of Mr. McPhee's work would expect, its appeal and value cannot be so narrowly limited; it's a lively chronicle, rich in character study and observations.” -- The Wall Street Journal


More About the Author

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker, where he has been a staff writer since 1965. The same year he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are, with FSG, and soon followed with The Headmaster (1966), Oranges (1967), The Pine Barrens (1968), A Roomful of Hovings and Other Profiles (collection, 1969), The Crofter and the Laird (1969), Levels of the Game (1970), Encounters with the Archdruid (1972), The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed (1973), The Curve of Binding Energy (1974), Pieces of the Frame (collection, 1975), and The Survival of the Bark Canoe (1975). Both Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science.

Customer Reviews

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He's very immature the book shows that.
J. Washburn
I would recommend this book for all high school students and any adult looking to learn about the canoe or just looking for a good book to read.
GrammaPam
This is a well-written, informative, and also very strange book.
Corn Soup

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mike Smith on September 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
Typically, I hate it when people write books about really short trips that aren't very adventurous or eventful.

But this is John McPhee, and he can write about whatever he wants.

This book is about a guy obsessed with building bark canoes like the Indians did, about a camping trip in the Maine woods, and about travelling through the wilderness when the rest of the world's advancing further into civilization.

It's a good book on bark canoes, on canoeing in general, on Maine, on the history of fur trapping, on the idea of wilderness, on obsession, and on Thoreau.

It may make you want to build a canoe, and it will almost certainly make you want to go camping. It's worth it just for that.

The book is written in John McPhee's clear, simplistic prose, and always feels focused and well-paced. It's a good introduction to McPhee, and a good book, period.

You should read it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David B. Thomas on July 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a canoeist, handyman, and McPhee fan, I enjoyed this little book very much. Like the 5-11-2000 reviewer, I found it to come in two parts. The first part details technical details about birch-bark canoes and how Vaillancourt became a self-taught master of their construction. The second part describes a canoe trip with Vaillancourt and others.
That other reviewer found the second half to be parody of Vaillancourt, but I disagree. As in The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed, real life sometimes takes a turn that a dreamer would not expect. Like his other non-fiction, I felt that McPhee offered real insights to the peoples' character and doesn't hesitate to sing their praises nor describe their shortcomings.
I enjoy the copious background information that McPhee includes in all of his books. Even more than a Tracy Kidder book, you come away feeling like you have some in-depth understanding of the subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen P. Smith on September 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
A very enjoyable little book by McPhee, especially for those of us who enjoy his work, but can be overwhelmed (bored?) by his frequent choice of geology as his primary subject.

As usual with McPhee we learn a great deal about the technical subject at hand; here the building of authentic birchbark canoes, but even more about the tradecraft and personality of the person and type of person dedicated to the subject.

Like McPhee, I live in New Jersey and have hiked and camped in the Pine Barrens, and fished for and caught shad in the Delaware River, and perhaps understand a little of his wanderlust. McPhee mentions canoes in many of his other works, is clearly fond of and experienced with them, and can barely contain his excitement over getting authentic with a birchbark canoe.

As others have noted, his portrayal of Henri changes a bit as we move from "the yard" to the water. McPhee notes that Henri is an artist in both ability and temperament. This is an academic conclusion that is easy to come by while watching in the yard, but not without a little personal discomfort to realize in the field.

I often tell my kids that one of the most critical rules one must follow to get along with a group while on a team, on a trip, or even on a family vacation is to take care of your own stuff and do a little more than your share of the work.Henri violates this rule and complicates matters further when it is revealed that although he is the self appointed leader, the emperor has no clothes with regard to actually using the canoes.

There is a faint sense of attempting to, but not quite being able to experience that which is desired. Do the canoes actually work as well as imagined? Is the land as beautiful? What of Thoreau and his observations?
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Greenknight01 on September 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read this book years ago and have even given a couple of copies away to friends! So I highly recommend this book and many of McPhee's other works. As to Henri Vaillincourt, the hero of the book; he would say don't believe everything you read in the book... He builds canoes still today, and very nice one at that. He even has a website that I will not list here. The true beauty of the book is first it recreates how to build a true Algonquin style canoe. Second it recreates Thoreau's "Maine Woods" trip. Lastly it shows a man, Henri with an interest that has became his passion for the last forty years or his life. If you ever drive up up New Hampshire Route 31 you can see his works of art in progress on the side of the road. I also recommend Thoreau's The Maine Woods as a companion book to this one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
John McFee has crafted an elegant essay that juxtaposes the lost native art and craft of canoe making with the psyche and only too human angst of an endangered species; a man who embraces the non-technical world.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John McPhee has been America's best non-fiction writer seemingly forever. This is the first of his I read [decades ago!], but it remains utterly unforgettable. Here's my chance to "plug" once again my OTHER all-time favorite "outdoors" books [out-of-print? -- no matter, do yourself a favor and track down used copies!]: Elliot Merrick's "True North;" John J. Rowland's "Cache Lake Country;" and R.M. Patterson's "The Dangerous River -- Adventure on the Nahanni" [previously just "Dangerous River"].
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