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A Land Gone Lonesome: An Inland Voyage Along the Yukon River by [O'Neill, Dan]
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A Land Gone Lonesome: An Inland Voyage Along the Yukon River Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Length: 274 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Outdoorsman O'Neill (The Last Giant of Beringia) steers his canoe through the history and topography of the Yukon River, which runs through Canada and Alaska, letting its course carry his witty travelogue. Drawing from legend, interview and observation, he evokes the river's rustic majesty and the spartan dignity of its vestigial towns, briefly fed by the frenzied Gold Rush of the 1890s. His engaging account of the river's history punctuates its backwater charm, pulling readers into a realm of frigid wilderness and frontier stakeouts. He captures the hardiness of its scattered dwellers in vignettes of outmoded customs and bawdy tourist traditions, including the tale of someone chugging an amputated-toe cocktail in the Canadian town of Dawson. Exploring the conflict between nature and society, O'Neill writes of legendary holdouts (such as crusty Dick Cook, who he acknowledges was also a subject of John McPhee) who chafe at federal mandates that threaten their hardscrabble homesteads. O'Neill's meditations on the river branch into epic themes of self-reliance, heroism and humanity. Poetic renderings of creeks, camps and log cabin settlements bestow a refined gloss on rough terrain, reviving the moribund spirit of the "ghost river connecting ghost towns." (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

O'Neill, who lives in a log cabin in Fairbanks, Alaska, chronicles his journey along the Yukon River in a canoe and his forays into the wildness into which the river takes him. His exciting trip begins in Dawson, Yukon Territory, and ends in Circle City, Alaska. O'Neill gives readers a brief history of the land and then proceeds to describe the beauty of the woods, water, birds, bears, and bluffs. O'Neill is charmed by the characters he meets along the way, including Randy Brown, who lived in a six-by-nine-foot cabin before marrying a schoolteacher, and Charlie Kidd, who walked 120 miles in snowshoes over the Woodchopper Trail once a year rather than make the trip by boat or dog teams. Then there's Dick Cook, who "looked like a marooned pirate in Birkenstocks, a castaway scavenger of random goods." O'Neill's love of the land shines through on every page. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 866 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 31, 2008)
  • Publication Date: July 31, 2008
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0097CWFZ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #562,275 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bryan Newman VINE VOICE on July 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It seems that ever since John McPhee's Coming into the Country came out in the seventies, all stories of living in the Alaskan wilderness are compared to it. This book in many ways revisits that book and lets you know what happened to the self sufficient trappers and homesteaders that McPhee met in the seventies. And apparently they are gone.

Much like McPhee, this book paints pictures of the upper reaches of the Yukon River and it's people with words. The author splices anecdotes and histories to the people and places he passes on the river and brings you along for the trip and the politics that have created the situation on the river today.

This book can definitely stand on it's own, but I suggest reading Coming Into the Country first, if nothing else than for the fact that you will be struck by the differences created by thirty years and some legislation. I hate to keep going back to McPhee's book to review this one, but if that book is a modern classic, than this one deserves the same billing. Great reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Dan O'Neill drops his canoe into the Yukon River near Dawson City (Canada) and paddles downriver in search of the Alaskan homesteader and the subsistence lifestyle familiar to many from John McPhee's book, "Coming Into the Country."

O'Neill's book is meant as both an update and a rebuke to McPhee and his fans. Most emphatically, O'Neill documents the decay and disappearance of the trappers that McPhee wrote about. Outside a few tiny villages, there is no longer a single family inhabiting the whole area O'Neill surveys on a year-round basis. He visits cabin after decaying abandoned cabin, musing on the complicity of the National Park Service in eliminating a culture that, from O'Neill's perspective, was worth preserving.

I expect there are a lot of Alaskans that share O'Neill's disappointment. And he does an excellent job communicating it - he's a first-rate journalist. Some parts of the story are downright lyrical; others are first-rate news reporting.

The narrative thread of his canoe journey from time to time gets buried behind his urge to fuss at the authorities setting policy in the area. The book gets increasingly episodic and disjointed the further downstream he gets. However, for fans of McPhee's book, and for fans of Alaska in general, a worthy addition to the literature.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dan O'Neill is an adventurer, a historian, a "floater" (as Yukon River canoe campers are called), and an advocate for a people whose names may be last seen in these pages. This book is ostensibly a story about a float trip O'Neill makes from Dawson, in Canada's Yukon Territory, to Circle, in Alaska, through the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, administered by the National Parks Service. Actually, it is seven trips condensed into one. O'Neill is the spiritual descendant of John McPhee, whom he quotes extensively as the base-line Yukon River interpreter. The reader may be forgiven if he believes that he will be treated to a combination of float trip travelogue and history of the places and people who make the country what it is. Little by little we learn that O'Neill wants to do more than report; he intends to make a statement and to leave an impact.

O'Neill makes (and re-makes) a compelling case that the National Parks Service is egregiously mismanaging the wilderness it is supposed to be protecting. The NPS faces the same conflict in the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve that it has in other national parks. How do you preserve a natural area for people to enjoy in perpetuity when each person who visits incrementally damages the area? O'Neill argues that the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve differs so radically from the nation's other parks that it requires fresh thinking and a more tailored conservation regime. The lament implicit in the title is that this dramatically attractive land, inhospitable as it is, once was home to scores of rugged, subsistence pioneers, and could safely be so again under a more creative land use policy.
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Format: Paperback
The Yukon River, 2300 miles long, was the last major river system in North America to be discovered, explored, and settled by non-Natives. Yet around 1900, there were tens of thousands of "outsiders" living and traveling along its course and in its basin, the vast majority attracted there by the lure of gold. Even after the ore played out, the Yukon River continued to attract settlers, trappers, fishermen, and others as a sort of last frontier. Within Alaska, that all changed around 1980 with the creation of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and the attendant transfer of administrative responsibility to the National Park Service. Contrary to rather clear legislative intent, the Park Service has managed the Preserve so as to evict virtually all residents from the Preserve, such that, in the words of Dan O'Neill's book title, the Yukon is now "a land gone lonesome."

I bought A LAND GONE LONESOME in large part based on a back cover blurb likening it to John Graves's "Goodbye to a River" and John McPhee's "Coming into the Country." I was misled. The book is centered around a trip by the author down the Yukon in a 19-foot canoe with outboard motor from Dawson, Yukon Territory, to Circle City, Alaska, through the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The book begins promisingly enough, with some entertaining tales of sourdoughs from the gold-rush era and assorted contemporary crackpots and characters. But once O'Neill reaches Alaska, the book morphs into a kind of screed against Park Service policies in the Preserve, and never really emerges. To the extent there remains any aspect of a travelogue, it consists principally of a series of river cabins (dozens of them) in various stages of ruin and decay.
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