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Alongshore Hardcover – April 27, 1994

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Landscape historian Stilgoe presents an intimate look at the Massachusetts seacoast.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Stilgoe (who teaches history of landscape at Harvard) brings to seashores the same mystique, erudition, and pleasure he applied to railroads in Metropolitan Corridor (1983). His charming, informative, profusely illustrated tour of the northeastern shoreline--beaches, marshes, dunes, wharves, lighthouses, harbors, boats, inhabitants and their social conventions--appears in time for summer holidays. Indeed, the volume offers a summer holiday itself with its lyrical descriptions of the wonder and allure of the seashore; the taste, smell, texture of this special place between low tide and high; the forces of nature that shape and repossess it; the seasons, history, and attitudes it fosters. Stilgoe provides an array of information, anecdote, and fantasy, as well as answering some puzzling questions--such as why a man taking pictures on the beach is considered a violator of the unspoken etiquette developed by shore people (as opposed to tourists). He explains how salt marshes are formed and how culture impinges on them, how marshes are dissected by railroads and bridges, how fiberglass boats have turned yards where the wooden boats wintered and were refitted into condominium developments, why wharves have criminal associations and are eaten by small sea creatures that no one wants to study. A chapter on treasures turns into a history of pirates--real and imaginary--and their place in the ``American maritime psyche.'' He similarly juxtaposes reality with perception in a chapter on quaintness, or how what was poverty to the natives is being preserved by historical societies and rediscovered by affluent moderns who can afford to live in what they think is a natural way. Reflecting on bikinis, he considers how human beings interact with nature, how ocean ``bathing'' in the 19th century became ``swimming,'' and how that change generated the whole vacation culture. Eloquent, personable, absorbing, a book to read while the seasons are changing and the tide is turning. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (April 27, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300059094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300059090
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,595,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Corinne H. Smith VINE VOICE on January 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Nature's "edges" brim with intricate lifestyles and habitats: the succession margins between wood and meadow; the neither-nor pockets between mountain and plains; and of course, the dynamic shorelines between land and sea. Author John Stilgoe uses his home base of coastal Massachusetts to explore in detail each and every nuance of the latter.

More specifically, his narrative dwells most often on life in and around Scituate, Marshfield, and Duxbury, several bayside towns lying between Boston and Plymouth. (The Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean shorelines are specified on occasion; but in most instances, the information presented here is somewhat universal.) Referring to himself as "the barefoot historian," Stilgoe analyzes the ongoing relationship between humans and the water's edge. The subject has a language all its own, with words like looming and chartreuse, not to mention glim, guzzle, and gundalow gunkholing.

Stilgoe additionally uses sociology, history, science and literature to explore every aspect of the place he calls "alongshore." He expounds on the virtues of the salt marsh. He lists the qualities of a proper skiff, and ponders the differences between a boat and a yacht. He peeks into a WWII observation tower. He describes the fate of the wooden wharf. He notes the continuing lure of discovering treasure trove. He documents the visitor's desire to take home part of the sea, which results even today in inland aquariums and decorations for knick-knack shelves. He debates the issues of swimming suits vs. bathing suits, to tan and not to tan, and the acceptable forms of near-nudity on public beaches. He tells potential beachside builders that the land they see is "not real estate, but realm.
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I give the author credit for writing about such a unique and exact topic. Some of the chapters are interesting, some I'd call "wandering", and some would probably interest a person with the same philosophical "wonderings".
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