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Alaskan Travels: Far Flung Tales of Love and Adventure
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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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Hoaglund's writing is dense, and frequently "stream of consciousness" in style with long run-on impenetrable sentences. For example: "The bowhead, with two feet of blubber cushioning it against the cold, a handsomely white-napkinned chin underneath a head about a third of its total length, possessed a skull capable of bashing breathing holes in several inches of ice, broad graceful mouth large enough to sieve gargantuan amounts of plankton and krill through those wondrously pliant, but skinny, still baleen plates, five or ten feet long, and two hundred or more on each side - that the whalers sold for dressmakers to whet the lust of city men in the form of bustiers and bustles - was a slow swimmer, surfacing predictably every twenty minutes to breathe, and floated conveniently when killed because of that fat content, which lighted the lamps of Europe." It's as if he doesn't want to buy a period to end a sentence, but he can have all the commas and dashes he wants for free...
In spite of the dense language, there are a few insights, such as "Alaska is a destination created out of anger and quests... where people decide how much wildness they want to have, maybe content with a suburb of Anchorage." Also, "Alaska, crammed with extremes, attracts new citizens with the shifty eyes of folk who may have left their previous residence in a hurry, without unduly bidding goodbye." He also writes about rampant alcoholism, divorces and suicides. It is indeed a land of extremes, which apparently brings out the worst and best in people - but I still want to go there for an extended visit !
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. (I'm sure there are ones like he describes, and it is an interesting observation.) Also, I didn't enjoy reading so many intimate details of his relationship with his nurse friend. Some things are just better left unsaid.
I do still consider his body of work to be excellent, at least what I've read of it. This book just didn't measure up to his standards, in my opinion. On the other hand, for someone who is a real Alaskaphile, and who is up to the task, there's a lot of good content and observation here.
It is a fascinating journey that took place in the mid Eighties. Although somewhat dated, the book provides wonderful insight into the Alaska of today. It is well worth the read.