At once an incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, Egan's book tells the remarkable untold story behind Edward Curtis's iconic photographs, following him throughout Indian country from desert to rainforest as he struggled to document the stories and rituals of more than 80 tribes. Even with the backing of Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan, it took tremendous perseverance. The undertaking changed him profoundly, from detached observer to outraged advocate.
He would die penniless and unknown in Hollywood just a few years after publishing the last of his 20 volumes. But the charming rogue with the grade-school education had fulfilled his promise - his great adventure succeeded in creating one of America's most stunning cultural achievements.
PDF features Edward Curtis photographs.
©2012 Timothy Egan (P)2012 Dreamscape Media, LLC
"With a reporter's eye for detail, Egan delivers a gracefully written biography and adventure story." (Publishers Weekly)
"Lucent prose illuminates a man obscured for years in history's shadows." (Kirkus Reviews)
Riveting, no matter any preconceptions about Curtis, this author is a master.
Rebecca Solnit's remarkable River of Shadows, which is about Edweard Muybridge and the amazing geo-socio-psychological and historical reasons for his work.
He is really perfect. Has a world-weary voice, suitable to the material.
The Impossible Dream! A Quixotic Story of a man who gave up everything for a 20 volume photobook.
My review of the book on the ICP Library blog
I grew up in Seattle and didn't know anything about Curtis except having seen his photographs, it is always amazing what you find in your own backyard that they never even mentioned in school. What a dedicated person his was
I was unsure I would like this book but it's fascinating to know the full story of Curtiss' huge project. I just ordered a book with some of the pictures, and I want to track down the full set near me as well as his film
This is a great biography of an incredible photographer. I am quite familiar with his astounding portraits of the life of American Indians at the turn of last century. As I listened to the book I went online to look up the photographs that are referred to and that made the story even more intriguing. As Americans we are familiar with many of these images however knowing the story of Mr. Curtis and his devotion to telling the story of our indigenous peoples makes the photos come alive.
I found the narration lacking however. I'll admit I am spoiled by readers such as George Guidall and James Marsters who can impart such distinct character into each player in a story. David Drummond's style reminded me of a television news reporter more than the voice of someone telling the story of an important piece of American history.
As an aside; much of this story takes place in and around Seattle which is close to where I live so that made the story even more interesting for me and perhaps other Seattlites.
For anyone who has marveled at Curtis's photographs this is an essential listen. I was amazed at how monumental the effort in creating the 20 volumes of the North American Indian actually was. I new he had finacial backing but had no idea how much - 20 million in today's dollars. I also did not know how many others had been involved and lastly how much he sacrificed in creating this. His achievements will be eternal.
Even though he did not gain financially from his work he did get to live a life of a purposeful wanderer traveling throughout the United States with someone else paying for it.
Anyone who ever had a dream needs to read this book. I was left in awe that Curtis could accomplish the daunting task of preserving the customs, languages & sacred rituals of All of The Native American Indian tribes, in just one lifetime, and never took a cent for it. His passion is contagious...I was taken away... Did not want the journey to end. As the book said, the times finally caught up with him! Amazing!
I couldn't listen to more than 15 minutes of the book because the narrator is awful. I find it difficult to believe that Timothy Egan, who writes with great passion on all his subjects selected, or approved the narrator who reads it sans emotion. My husband's reading of paper towels is more interesting. Unfortunately I could not just rate the section on performance, hence my meaningless rating on Overall and Story. The,only way I will be able to enjoy the book is to read it in print.
I have learned about Edward Curtis several times throughout my photographic and artistic education. I thought I had a clear grasp on him. This book changed several of my opinions about him. I had often read a lot of criticism about Curtis - mostly with regard to documentary ethics as well as his role in perpetuating stereotypes of native Americans. First of all this book exposes Curtis as a prolific, sensitive and genuine documentarian and advocate for all Native American cultures. He was progressive for his time and had the foresight to see Native American cultures would soon be lost.... many Americans (even some anthropologists) were caught up in racist hatred towards native Americans. While Curtis had many famous and wealthy friends and supporters, his thorough documentation of Native American cultures (which was with deepest sensitivity) often came at his own expense: mostly financial and stress it caused on his family. It was in many ways a thankless job that was not respected until long after he passed away.
Second, this book bravely approaches the very criticism I had read about. Which I really appreciated because it showed awareness of such criticism and it made arguments against it.
Oh I just want to keep listening to this book - it's for sure one of my favorite historical/biographical pieces I've listened to in a while.
A well balanced view of Edward Curtis- a photographer, an artist, a man with a vision to capture the culture of around 80 tribes of native Americans before the culture was lost.
He was not perfect but without his efforts and the many supporters - editor, field researchers, photo printers, financial support - we would not have his invaluable resource.
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