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River Horse: A Voyage Across America Audio, Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook

3.7 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Since hitting the American roads in Blue Highways nearly 20 years ago, William Least Heat-Moon has been following another calling--to traverse America by its rivers. "I wanted to see those secret parts hidden from road travelers," he writes. And from the waterways of his 5,000-mile voyage, Least Heat-Moon shares a sharp and stirring vision of America. Filling a small bottle with brine from the Atlantic Ocean, Least Heat-Moon and his wise companion, whom he calls "Pilotis," start up the Hudson River in a 22-foot C-Dory that Least Heat-Moon has named Nikawa--from the Osage words ni for river and kawa for horse. The voyage--from New York harbor to the Pacific Ocean--packs surprises, wisdom, regrets, mishaps, candor, and conversations that readers who savored Blue Highways and PrairyErth will delight in.

The impetus for River Horse is one of intrigue--less urgent than the departure in Blue Highways--and the narrative possesses a captivating pull as it courses westward through the strongest currents and pauses in the back eddies of contemporary American life. Least Heat-Moon is in his element. Written in short thematic chapters, River Horse plies canals, greets the Missouri's many moods, and challenges chaotic waves. Indeed, the turbulent and placid waters of America flow throughout this well-told story. When Nikawa finally reaches the Pacific Ocean, Least Heat-Moon has discovered a new America in the country he knows so well. He ponders the command that rivers hold on him and celebrates the national treasures that they are. Exceeding 500 pages, River Horse may be a long journey, but when traveling by rivers, America is a larger country. A triumphant book all the way to the salty Pacific. --Byron Ricks --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Writing under the name Heat-Moon (Blue Highways), William Trogdon once again sets out across America, this time propelled chiefly by a dual-outboard boat dubbed Nikawa, "River Horse" in Osage. In this hardy craft, he and a small crew attempt to travel more than 5000 miles by inland waterways from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a single season. Citing 19th-century travelogues and dredging odd bits of the rivers' past, Heat-Moon conveys the significance of passing "beneath a bridge that has looked down on the stovepipe hat of Abraham Lincoln, the mustache of Mark Twain, the sooty funnels of a hundred thousand steamboats." Though at first he is struck by how river travel is "so primordial, so unchanged in its path," he later notes that the only thing Lewis and Clark would recognize on a dammed and severely altered stretch of the Missouri River is the bedeviling prairie wind. But what remains constant for him is "the greatest theme in our history: the journey." It is an American theme, though by "westering" and persistently believing that the voyage is destined to succeed, Heat-Moon seems to be on dangerous waters for someone who is part Native American. But his romantic attachment to the nature of exploration doesn't occlude his indictments of pollution, overzealous river management and aboriginal displacement. The book, though largely engaging, is not without its slow spots, which Heat-Moon avers are true to the trip's nature: "the river is no blue highway because the river removes reverie." Heat-Moon has written a rich chronicle of a massive and meaningful undertaking. Unlike Blue Highways, however, the focus is not so much on people and places as on the trials of a journey that bypasses them in favor of reaching its destination. Illus. 250,000 first printing; $250,000 ad/promo; 13-city author tour. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Abridged edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671047035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671047030
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 1.1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,612,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
First of all, if you enjoy the writings of William Least Heat-Moon [as do I], then by all means, buy this book. That having been said, you should also beware-this is NOT the wandering, see-where-the-wind-takes-me journey of Blue Highways. This is an obsession. This is a mission, a quest; a race to arrive at fixed destination by a fixed route before a fixed time, and devil take the hindmost. Moon [I'll just call him "Moon", if that's okay] decided long ago that he wanted to cross the country by navigable rivers, using as few portages as possible. Fine & dandy. The country looks a lot different from the river than it does from the highway, and such a journey would be a fine companion piece to Blue Highways. The problem is: in order to cross the country via river in a single season, timing the journey to take advantage of the snowmelt of the western mountains is vital. This is where the journey [and the book] lose their way. The Moon of Blue Highways always had time to talk, to investigate, to explore [I recall one episode of speaking to a man in Tennessee for over an hour, all while stopped in the middle of a seldom-used road]. The Moon of River Horse has no room for such frivolities. Those people who appear in River Horse are described by a thumbnail sketch, pumped for information about the route ahead, and then sent upon their way. Moon is determined to complete his journey-but most of the time forgets to take the journey. There are passages which describe the lazy, dialed-down atmosphere of life on the river; but there are far too many passages which feel like a salesman trying to make airline connections. Almost twenty years after first reading Blue Highways, those people and images still resonate in my mind. Two months after reading River Horse, I simply wonder which one of us has changed the most. The book is very readable, and a must for Moon fans; but be aware that it is deeply flawed.
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Format: Paperback
Of Heat-Moon's previous travel epics, I have not read *PrairyErth* but I did greatly enjoy *Blue Highways* and where that book is lean and to the point, *River-Horse* is big and bloated. Heat-Moon has pulled off a real accomplishment here, travelling across America east-to-west almost entirely in small boats. But you barely notice his rewarding revelations on the acts of traveling and soul searching, the state of America's natural places, and the people he meets. All of these are sunk under a never-ending wave of waterlogged writing.
Heat-Moon can't stop piling on his heavy-handed style, with a flood of arcane words that will make you run exasperated to your dictionary. Some examples include jactitation, brummagem, atraxia, atrabilious, genetrix, and lacustrene. Before you recommend use of a thesaurus to the lazy reader, these plodding words actually serve little purpose other than to illustrate Heat-Moon's use of a word-of-the-day calendar on his desk. Then there's soggy prose like "inspiration flowed like the sky" or "in my moustache I can smell river like a sweetly scented woman from night before." This is all showing off at best, with little reward to the increasingly weary reader.
Worst of all is Heat-Moon's impersonal treatment of his crew during the voyage. He combines seven different first-mates (one of whom was a woman) into an anonymous entity called Pilotis that has the same personality throughout the voyage. The same goes for at least two different people called merely Photographer, plus a succession of faceless folk with names like Reporter or Professor.
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Format: Hardcover
As a Kansan, rivers have played relatively little role in my life, although I have enjoyed the occasional canoe trip down the Cottonwood and the K-State/KU canoe race on the Kaw. However, William Least Heat-Moon's earlier books fascinated me with their combination of travelogue, social history and natural history, and I expected the same from "River Horse." I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I enjoyed this book much more than "PrairyErth" even though I grew up only a few miles north of Chase County, KS, the subject of the earlier book. Although he is constantly impelled to move onward and westward for fear (unfounded mostly) of having too little water in the West, Heat-Moon still takes plenty of time to learn and relate the histories of many of the small river towns he finds along the way. This is the sort of personal, anecdotal history at which he excels and which I enjoy. Unlike "Blue Highways," this book did not necessarily make me want to attempt the trip myself--my lack of familiarity with boats and rivers would be a major hurdle! However, it did send me looking for more information on many of the sites and I have my own list of places I now hope to visit as a result of reading this book. In a way, I feel some of the same need for hurry as Heat-Moon did, though, thanks to the insane amount of control large farming and corporate America have over what are supposed to be public lands and waterways. Who knows but that by the time I can visit some of these areas, they may be flooded by a new dam or eroded to nothingness by thousands of cattle hooves? Some may not appreciate the political bent of this book, but I find it understandable that if a person loves an area enough to row, push and carry a canoe through it, then he should speak up for it in every way possible. Get in touch with the America too few of us appreciate by reading "River Horse"!
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