I could barely stand this annoying, pretentious, fatphobic book that covered a subject George Orwell already did far better, so long ago. Extra star f...moreI could barely stand this annoying, pretentious, fatphobic book that covered a subject George Orwell already did far better, so long ago. Extra star for the awesome breakup. (less)
**spoiler alert** I'm pretty pissed that I just wrote a review of this book but it got eaten. Classy, Goodreads.
I didn't care for this book. The casu...more**spoiler alert** I'm pretty pissed that I just wrote a review of this book but it got eaten. Classy, Goodreads.
I didn't care for this book. The casual racism of the narrative/narrator and futility of the journey itself made for an unsatisfying experience. I only read the book because my father, an avid outdoorsperson, loved it. I imagine he would have loved to take a canoe from NYC to Alaska. At least, in theory. The trip broke up the friendship between these two coworkers, and it didn't result in fame or fortune or a spot in the Smithsonian for their vessel. Basically, through poor planning and bad follow-up, these two guys did not manage to parlay their huge undertaking into anything at all, and this book (completed fifty years after the voyage) reads like a vanity press offering.
Two of the images in the book were duplicated; one caption reads that it is the second guy (Jeff Pope) sailing the French River into Georgian Bay, and the other caption reads that it is Jeff Pope sailing on the Bering Sea. I don't like that in twenty-four years of this book's publication, nobody has seen fit to correct this error, which was deliberately created (the two versions of the photo are altered in exposure and cropping to make them appear to be two different photos, but they are exactly the same). That's the kind of error that makes me distrust the narrative completely, no matter how many beautiful deer and bears and caribou the book describes.
Two stars, rather than one, for the fact that the book took TEN YEARS to write. Rick Steber is the actual author of this book, not Shell Taylor, who was one of the two canoeists on the journey. What took Rick Steber ten years to write this book? The story can be summed up like this: two bored white clerks at a NYC press decide to sail their discovery, a true Northwest passage by water. The two men take a canoe from 42nd Street to Nome, Alaska. They spend the winter getting drunk, trapping, neglecting to bathe (see: fur trapping), bedding Cree women, and abusing sled dog teams with thick chain-link whips. They fight, they are an Odd Couple of the waterways, they make it to Alaska. After, they split up and never get a book or a movie out of the adventure, and even get their Guinness World Record taken away from them by a kayaking team. This book suffered from bad PR. And from other things.
So I learned that, since I am not a voyageur of the seventeenth century, I should not travel by canoe except for pleasure, and certainly not for more than an afternoon. And I should not try to be verbose, and I should also not expect that the world is going to give a shit about anything I do unless I am shameless in my self-promotion.(less)
It was a fluffy period piece that was fun to read. I have an interest in herbalism, and little interest in Christian fiction. I am also not really int...moreIt was a fluffy period piece that was fun to read. I have an interest in herbalism, and little interest in Christian fiction. I am also not really into the Jane Austen brand of swooning female narratives revolving around marriage To A Suitable Fellow. Ended well enough. Fun to read on vacation.(less)
This review contains no spoilers. It is therefore vague.
I have a problem with novels. It is a happy problem. If I begin to read a novel, I cannot put...moreThis review contains no spoilers. It is therefore vague.
I have a problem with novels. It is a happy problem. If I begin to read a novel, I cannot put it down until I have finished it. I often read a book in one sitting, and this not only curtails my reading opportunities, but also limits the books I get read.
Anyway. This book was good. Solidly good. It grew on me. I was prepared to hate it for being sensational, romantic(izing), and annoying. I didn't hate it. It wasn't any of those things. The book did not romanticize the subject matter in appreciable ways. I found myself caring about the characters, or at least caring about the characters who were kind, and vilifying the characters who were unkind. There were morality issues that I cared about, and real-life tie-ins to things that actually happened in the history of the circus.
I thought that the book did an excellent job of not banging the biblical tie-ins over the reader's head. I also thought that W4E had a sensitive touch when discussing old age, and one thing that was interesting was the way the book had me wondering what was reality and what was fantasy a lot more than I was expecting it to. By setting us up to accept unusual or unlikely events early on, Gruen makes it possible for us to read the ending as probable, and at least highly meaningful to a possible unreliable narrator.
I didn't care that the narrator may or may not be 100% reliable. This is largely because I like rashomon and I like old people.
I didn't like the preciousness of some of the links between the past and present. In particular, the one with the nurse. I also didn't like that Gruen probably ripped off "Sophie's Choice" in her portrayal of a person with paranoid schizophrenia. However, unlike in "Sophie's Choice," no protagonist is punished. However again, we get to see what happens when greed motivates someone to harness a person's mental illness for financial gain.
I hated that the book came with pages and pages of book-club questions at the end, and that's because I cannot imagine why such pablum is necessary. I hated the ten pages of reviews at the beginning, as if we didn't know that this was a best-seller, what with NYT and Reese Witherspoon dancing with Robert Pattinson on the damned cover. But this is how we sell books today, I suppose. The interview with the author at the end could have gone on the internet, and not bound into the book itself.
It was a solid book that touches upon issues pertaining to themes of labor, loss, feminism, mental illness, class, loyalty, family, and aging. It was a book that grew on me, and some of the critical scenes have replayed in my mind quite positively since I finished it.
Read it. It was given to me as a long-plane-ride book, and it would totally work for that. I wonder if Gruen will write follow-up books about the span of years merely glossed over towards the end, as a prologue, or about the span of time directly after the book ends. It depends on how the Hollywood machine fares, I would imagine, with this tome. And it would also depend on whether or not the end of this book really happened.(less)
Religion picks and chooses. Or more accurately: virtually nobody can follow each and every rule and directive in the Bible in this day and age. Not li...moreReligion picks and chooses. Or more accurately: virtually nobody can follow each and every rule and directive in the Bible in this day and age. Not like I had any doubts that this was the case. (less)
It's certainly not the most original thing to say, but I was profoundly changed by Spiritual Midwifery's early edition (created in the 1970s). The lat...moreIt's certainly not the most original thing to say, but I was profoundly changed by Spiritual Midwifery's early edition (created in the 1970s). The latest edition is so significantly different as to count as a separate book, in my mind. Both editions are vital to independent birth knowledge/learning. (less)
I came late to the Potterverse. Ultimately, I learned that I really don't have to always resist something just because it is overly hyped. Or, rather,...moreI came late to the Potterverse. Ultimately, I learned that I really don't have to always resist something just because it is overly hyped. Or, rather, I learned that it was worth it to give this hype a chance. My friend arjuna gave me a thrift-store copy of Book One as a gift that she obtained from a unitarian tag sale (I think I got the story right), and I got the next five books off of Freecycle. This minimum effort was well worth the resulting experience. However, because of the whole "carpetbook" pre-release debacle, I have not yet read the final book in the series. Complete facility of Harry Potter discourse certainly ups my street cred amongst the ten-year-old set.(less)
This is one of those times when I just can't add anything to the conversation because I'm kind of tired right now. How about (for now): bigotry = bad,...moreThis is one of those times when I just can't add anything to the conversation because I'm kind of tired right now. How about (for now): bigotry = bad, Boo Radley = also a nifty name for a band.(less)