Cork Boat tells the story of Pollack's improbable quest. Overcoming one obstacle after another, he convinces skeptical bartenders to save their corks, corrals a brilliant but disorganized partner, and eventually cajoles more than one hundred volunteers who help build the boat until their fingers bleed. Ultimately, Pollack completes his vessel of 165,321 corks and sets sail on a fantastic voyage down the Douro River in Portugal, where the Cork Boat becomes a national sensation.
In recounting these adventures, Pollack skillfully meanders through fascinating arcana, from the cork wars to the history of rubber bands (some 15,000 of which help hold his boat together). He also offers an insider's look at the White House, where he was a Presidential speechwriter and enlisted navy stewards to save corks for the boat.
Written with unusual grace and disarming humor, Cork Boat is a buoyant tale of whimsy, adventure, and the power of imagination.
"[John] Pollack offers an amusing tale, with entertaining anecdotes constantly bobbing to the surface." (Publishers Weekly)
"Pollack's absurd quest seems not merely charming but heroic." (The New Yorker)
..but the tale is maudlin, self-congratulatory, and in many places annoying. I was hoping for an uplifting triumph-over-adversity tale, but the only adversity were a few inconveniences brought on by the author's lack of common sense. (Really, would it have been so hard to check the prevailing wind direction on the Douro river, or to anticipate the possibility of sunburn in the Portugese summer, or realize that tides might play a role where the river meets the sea?)
I'm giving it two stars because portions of the book work as a travelog. But give this book a pass if you're looking for adventure.
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