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The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City Paperback – July 20, 1999


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The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City + My American Revolution: A Modern Expedition Through History's Forgotten Battlegrounds
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495080
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I like to think of the Meadowlands as an undesignated national park," writes Robert Sullivan in his end-of-the-millennium take on Thoreau. In The Meadowlands, Sullivan does his Thoreauvian bean-counting in one of America's most infamous dumping grounds, the huge tract of marshy land just outside New York City that has withstood any and all attempts to subdue it with agriculture, industry, development, and an ever-shifting deluge of flotsam and jetsam. He may just be the first person in a century to willingly explore this fascinating but abused piece of real estate, and his investigation gives new meaning to intrepid reporting. By foot he tramps through the muck, and by canoe he navigates polluted rivers and marshes, noting the variegated species of trash and industrial cast-offs with as much zeal as he observes the surprisingly rich diversity of wildlife. Revealed in these stories is a landscape bursting with nature amid the curious man-made detritus of urban consumption. With only a touch of irony, the author refers to his stomping ground as "Big Sky Country, east," imagining he's "in a National Geographic special and visiting little tribes of people unknown to everyone else." He pursues the history of the Meadowlands with equal enthusiasm. Eccentric characters, tall tales, and scuttlebutt haunt the area, from the rumor that the land serves as the final resting place for Jimmy Hoffa (as well as a number of other Mafia hits) to the pitiable stories of the many dreamers who have sunk a fortune in the squelching mud. And throughout this smart, thoroughly researched adventure, Sullivan maintains a witty and lyrical voice that transforms his trip inside a nationally maligned place into a fun, informative romp. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Just five short, swampy miles from Manhattan, the New Jersey Meadowlands are awash in refuse of all sorts, from toxic waste and landfill to tangled heaps of abortive real-estate development?and perhaps even Jimmy Hoffa's remains. A freelance journalist and unapologetic enthusiast for his chosen tract, Sullivan in his first book marvels at the Meadowlands' history and that of the people who continue to explore it, fish it and even swim it. The author hikes, boats and drives through environs that have over the years offered refuge to pig farms, eccentrics, schemers and even pirates. He marvels at the volume of refuse and sheer toxicity of some of the land, explaining that when one notorious landfill caught fire, it burned for 15 years because the local fire department, fearing for its health in the face of toxic fumes, refused to put out the smoldering heap. Today, under the care of the EPA and other environmental groups, the area is showing signs of rebounding. But such reports, even coupled with Sullivan's zeal, cannot fully brighten this sad if intriguing tale of industrial carnage.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Robert Sullivan is the author of Rats, The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, How Not To Get Rich; Or Why Being Bad Off Isn't So Bad, Cross Country, The Thoreau You Don't Know, and most recently My American Revolution. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York, A Public Space, Runner's World, Condé Nast Traveler, GQ, Rolling Stone, The Independent of London, The London Times and Vogue. He was born in Manhattan and now lives in Brooklyn, after living for many years in Portland, Oregon.

Customer Reviews

I give this book as gift often, and reread.
M&M
Sullivan tackles the project with one part archaeology and one part good detective work, and it reads like a charm.
Jeffrey Jotz
So glad I picked this up, form the history of the area to the natural flora and fauna information.
Clev Landers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Darren on August 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Being an avid kayaker, I've often wondered what it would be like to paddle the swampy marshlands of the Meadowlands. Riding on the NJ Turnpike, and amidst the backdrop of the Manahttan Skyline, the Meadowlands looks like an appealing natural area to paddle (..at least from a paddler's perspective). Although the area is historically notorious for being one of the most polluted in the state, I've often seen many wading birds feeding in the area so I figured "how bad could it be?"
Robert Sullivan answers this question in an entertaining account of his canoe expeditions in this area. His trek through the muck and mire lead him on searches for Jimmy Hoffa's body and other 'treasures'while also detailing the local history of the area and the mob related lore of the garbage and solid waste disposal industry. His graphic and detailed accounts of the garbage that have been dumped in the area would make any paddler seriously consider whether they should paddle it. At the same time, Sullivan has also created a curiosity which has motivated more people than ever before to pick up a paddle and check it out.
Beyond the humorous account of his adventure, this book is an easy read that makes us more aware of the vast natural area we have abused and taken for granted. Hopefully it will inspire people to assist restorative and preservation efforts of this area of great potential, preventing it from becoming a continued dumpsite or concrete jungle.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Highly readable and engaging, this book allows the reader to go with the pleasantly obsessed author on his many outings to the Meadowlands. We learn a lot, from the checkered past of its epicenter, the much-maligned city of Secaucus, to the true burial site of Penn Station, to the essential disappointment of the much-vaunted Pulaski Skyway. The book doesn't try to be comprehensive or terribly organized, but that's part of its quirky charm. This is a perfect book to take along on any kind of vacation or adventure. Humorous and good-spirited, the author maintains his informative yet comical composure throughout this delightful memoir/travelogue/adventure/nature book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Montaigne on February 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read book. Though many that live outside the New York Metro area would probably enjoy it, the millions that have passed through the Meadowlands on the way to work or to Giants Stadium to catch "The Boss" will most enjoy the nuggets of info in Sullivan's book.
The Meadowlands is a mix ecology, biology, folk tales, local history, and personal observations that seem to reflect the author's love/hate (mostly love) relationship with the meadowlands. Personally, I found the historical tidbits the most fascinating part of Sullivan's book. Like most people, I rub shoulders with a geographic area on an almost daily basis that I know little about. Why a certain place is named what it is? What was this place about one hundred years ago? The author relates the colorful history behind the town of Kearny and its namesake, General Philip Kearny, a one-armed (you will have to read the book to learn why he had one arm) general killed during the Civil War. Sullivan also relates the fascinating tale of Seth Boyden, a notable inventor from Newark, New Jersey. Now I know who Boyden Ave was named for. The Meadowlands has many of these gems imbedded between its covers.
At two hundred pages, Sullivan's book is a fairly quick read. For the millions of folks that rub elbows with The Meadowlands every year, I highly recommend this book. When you are passing Snake Hill while driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, you can turn to your passengers and say, "Let me tell you a little bit about that hill over there...."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps it was the aggressive marketing, but I found myself disappointed with the book. There is much of interest and entertainment to be found here, but a number of vignettes (including the search for the ruins of Penn Station) came off oddly anti-climactic (perhaps because so little of the station still remains to be found) and the technique of the book (intro of a Meadowlands feature/area and a quirky personality to go with it) grows repetitive, so that by the end of the book one starts to know what to expect.
There are a number of gaps in coverage, including construction of the Meadowlands complex, and there is nary a word about the extensive network of rail lines criss-crossing the marshes.
The book would benefit enormously from some maps and photographs.
Nice read if somebody lends you the book, but The Meadowlands may not be worth the price of a new hardcover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steve on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Robert Sullivan's "The Meadowlands" is a fun, fast read, but in one area that I know quite well -- the construction of what is now called the Pulaski Skyway, and the labor war and murder trial that bloodied its history -- Sullivan's account is so riddled with errors that it leaves me reluctant to accept the rest of the book on face value. Most embarrassingly, Sullivan confuses Sigvald Johannesson, one of the key engineers on the Skyway project, with Sven Hedin, a Swedish geographer who was exploring Central Asia during the same period. He also offers an anecdote about a restaurant bill that anyone above a certain age will recognize as a particularly moldy ethnic joke. Speaking as someone who grew up in Bergen County on the fringe of the Meadowlands -- and who went to school with boys whose fathers regularly took them trapping and prospecting for scrap metal in the big swamp -- I recognize very little of the region in these tales of encounters with oddball locals, written in that faux naif style so beloved of New Yorker writers. A far superior book about the region is John R. Quinn's "Fields of Sun and Grass."
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