Those who have traveled into America’s only remaining frontier rarely come back out the same. Only in Alaska can we come close to understanding what our forefathers must have felt upon their arrival in the New World. McPhee brings to this narrative the qualities that have distinguished him in the field of travel literature—tolerance, brisk, and entertaining prose, and a fascination with things most of us never bother to notice.
©1977 John McPhee (P)1990 Recorded Books, LLC
In my opinion, and that of several Alaskans I have spoken with, this is the best book on contemporary Alaska. I have read it twice, and listened to it two more times. It is one of my favorite John McPhee titles. McPhee is arguably one of the most readable essayists in contemporary literature. Each of his books is a treasure, Coming into the Country being one of his finest works.
I generally only read or listen to a book once, but I might refer back to some of this one's prose.
The Gelvin family. Practical, competent, decent.
He's an accomplished pro. His reading does not get in the way of the prose.
Publish everything of McPhee's that you can.
This book provides a somewhat dated but still interesting look at the people who were moving to and living in Alaska during the mid-1970s. These are the rugged individualists, the misfits, and those with an Alaskan heritage. They don't like the government or neighbors or the ill-informed tree-huggers telling them what to do. I imagine there are a few of them still on the outskirts of civilization in the vast wilderness up north, but the petroleum industry and escapees from the lower 48 have doubled the population of the state since this book was written.
There is a lot of political incorrectness and destruction of natural resources, but this was a tough country that extracted a high price from its residents. Those trapped animals provided food and clothing. The bulldozed landing strip provided a fragile link to medical care and supplies. Those cost could be easily be borne with so few pushing out into the unknown wilderness.
Anyone who wants to voice opinions on how the Alaskan lands should be preserved or used should know the people in this book. Alaska was a frontier in 1975; is it still one today?
I found it somewhat challenging to stay engaged in this book. Seemed to ramble from one point to another without a storyline to effectively tie everything together. Parts of the narrative seemed to be whiny. Made it all the way through - continuing to work through Alaska based books before my trip up north. The first couple of books I went through (Williwaw and Into the Wild) were great. The last two, not so much.
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