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Alaskan Travels: Far Flung Tales of Love and Adventure

2.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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  • "The best essayist of my generation." (John Updike
  • "One of the very best writers of his generation." (Saul Bellow
  • "Edward Hoagland is a strong, solid writer with a splendid feel for the intricacy, queerness and stubborn pertinacity of life. He is also, so far as i know, the best essayist working in our perishing republic." (Edward Abbey)
  • "The Thoreau of our time, an essayist so personal, so sharp-eyed and deep-sighted, so tender and tough, lyrical and elegiac, as to transmute a simple stroll into a full-blown mystical experience." (Washington Post Book World)
  • "Hoagland inserts historical facts about the towns and cities he visited, and he provides plenty of appealing natural descriptions of a wondrous landscape. A pleasing combination of personal essays and reflections, a love story and a naturalist's view of one of the last unspoiled lands." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Alaskan Travels is one of Edward Hoagland's finest pieces of work. Thirty years ago, celebrated American writer Edward Hoagland, in his early fifties and already with a dozen acclaimed books under his belt, had a choice: a midlife crisis or a midlife adventure. He chose the adventure. Pencil and notebook at the ready, Hoagland set out to explore and write about one of the last truly wild territories remaining on the face of the earth: Alaska. From the Arctic Ocean to the Kenai Peninsula, the backstreet bars of Anchorage to the Yukon River, Hoagland traveled the "real" Alaska from top to bottom. Here he documents not only the flora and fauna of America's last frontier, but also the extraordinary people living on the fringe. On his journey he chronicles the lives of an astonishing and unforgettable array of prospectors, trappers, millionaire freebooters, drifters, oilmen, Eskimos, Indians, and a remarkably kind and capable frontier nurse named Linda. In his foreword, novelist Howard Frank Mosher describes Edward Hoagland's memoir as "the best book ever written about America's last best place." In the tradition of Twain's Life on the Mississippi and Jonathan Rabin's Old Glory, with a beautiful love story at its heart, this is an American masterpiece from a writer hailed by the Washington Post as "the Thoreau of our times.".About The Author - Edward Hoagland (born December 21, 1932 in New York, New York, United States) is an author best known for his nature and travel writing..Author - Edward Hoagland.Binding - Hard.Pages - 208.Publisher - Arcade Publishing (WW Norton).Year - 2012.ISBN - 9781611455038.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Hoagland's Notes From the Century Before years ago, and I still consider it one of my favorite books. I've also visited Alaska 10 times, and have traveled throughout the state. I purchased this book with great expectations, hoping for the same experience I had with Notes. Unfortunately, I found it a difficult book to read. I enjoyed the content, since I'd been to some of the same places as Hoagland, and he's a keen observer of people. He does describe very well the disintegration of much Eskimo and Indian culture in Alaska and the disillusionment of many immigrants from the lower 48. It's also a good snapshot in time of the early 1980s in the state. And he's very good at remembering and passing on stories from his travels. But the writing turned out to be full of long, run-on sentences, awkward constructions, and local jargon, which slowed down my reading to the point where I was asking myself what a sentence was about, before I'd finished the sentence, or where a paragraph was going. Some sentences could have stood as entire paragraphs themselves. Some paragraphs cover 3 or more topics. I'm a slow, careful reader, anyway, and this style of writing made the book a chore to get through. I'm sure that a good editor could have made a number of improvements. In addition, there were some places in the book that read like a transcription of his notes from 30 years earlier (fortunately there weren't too many examples like this.)

I also didn't like some of his generalizations about Alaskans or tourists. For example, his characterization of McKinley climbers at Talkeetna as "athletic trust-funders and remission men" doesn't ring true to my ears, since most of those I know are typical climbers with very little income or wealth.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I live in Alaska and love travel books so I thought this would be a great read. WRONG. I tried for couple of day to wade through it. His style of writing does not flow at all. Several times I had to re-read sentences to try to figure out what he was saying - very awkward phrasing. Seems like he just puts random thoughts/impressions in the same paragraph. In the middle of a description of the land/natives, etc. he randomly relates personal information about his sexual habits and intimate details of his love interest. I wasn't living here 30 years ago and Alaskan's ARE generally a rare breed but I don't feel that his impressions bear much resemblance to the life and people I know in Alaska today. I think his visit to Alaska was too short for him to get the big picture. I am amazed to read the other reviews (I hadn't looking at them prior to attempting to read the book.) I'm an avid reader and am astounded to see the great reviews of this book. Don't waste your time or money.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Hoagland has a great mix here of travel narrative, personal memoir, and cultural essay. Of the several books on Alaska out there, I'd say this one ranks near - if not at- the top. The writing is easy, natural, and fluid. The perspective is that of an outsiders' but not of a toursists'. Hoagland covers his subjects - from barge captains on the Yukon, sourdough gold miners in the interior, to natives on the North Slope - with a sharp mix of observation and compassion. Of note are profiles of a few of the millionaires residing in Anchorage who have made their fortunes by exploiting Alaska's people, animals, and natural resources. He paints these people as complexly driven - a mix of defiant individualism conflicted with the need to be known and accepted by society at large. These people serve as a poignant exhibit of why so many lives are made or broken in this state of superlatives. Then, Hoagland takes us into the bush, where a woman he falls in love with works as a state nurse, flying around the backcountry and treating natives in isolated villages for everything from bar fight stab wounds to tuberculosis to frostbite to the psychological effects of domestic violence linked to economic redundancy borne of oil wealth and long, dark winters. This really is a vivid and captivating portrait of all the heroes and villains in every setting from urban Anchorage to the remotest backcountry mining camp. You will get everything you expect from a good book on Alaska - stories of whaling, prospecting, salmon runs, men (and even a woman) made into millionaires, the novel brand of Alaskan state and federal politics, and a discussion of the rich animal menagerie found here. But you'll get it in a deeply humanized package as Hoagland travels with a woman he falls in love with, and through her, experiences the brutal beauty of this land.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Alaska has always intrigued me - the vast and unapproachable size of this distant territory, the hearty souls who traverse the frontier, the adventurers who escape there to start over and recreate themselves. Though I've only touched the periphery of Alaska on a cruise through the Inside Passage, I hope to plan a much more extensive trip there, and I looked forward to Hoaglund's book to reveal some of the secrets of Alaska. Though he spent quite a bit of time there accompanying his travelling nurse girlfriend and he covered a lot of territory, it appears that he has only a surface level understanding of the people and places he visited. Much of the book reads as a dispassionate list of places that he passed through and tribes and individuals that he met along the way, but there's no "deep dive" on any of it. We don't get to discover how, or if, he was changed by his time there. He does throw in a few references to a wife back home and the girlfriend, including some gratuitous sex, apparently to justify the word "love in the title. The grand finale, a barge ride up the Yukon River to deliver fuel to a remote military station, didn't come across as an adventure at all; it was too impersonal, and could have been written by just checking off place names on a map.

Hoaglund's writing is dense, and frequently "stream of consciousness" in style with long run-on impenetrable sentences.
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