HOLDING ON by David Isay


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 A delightful menagerie of oddballs, cranks, and die-hard misfits brought together from Isay's National Public Radio series and given a subtle dignity in the photographs of Harvey Wang. Many of these portraits are first-person narratives as aired on All Things Considered; some, though, appear here for the first time. Isay notes that these ``offbeat characters'' are ``men and women in pursuit of something, and holding on to that at all costs.'' A few simply have noteworthy hobbies, such as the man in Oregon who's collected 90,000 vinyl records or the elderly Jim Searles, whose passion for checkers during the Depression led to his founding the Brooklyn Elite Checker Club. Others, though, are downright wacky: a compulsive diary keeper who logs his every moment and movement (34 million words since 1972); Dixie Evans, a former stripper whose Hubba-Hubba Hall of Fame in Helendale, Calif., ``is the only burlesque historical society in the world''; Dugout Dick Zimmerman of Salmon, Idaho, a miner ``in the tourist business'' who rents out the 10 caves he's dug out of the mountain since beginning prospecting in 1948--a rough-and-ready resort for intrepid campers and assorted hermits; and George Preston, who, during his 68-year proprietorship of a filling station on the old Lincoln Highway in Belle Plain, Iowa, has kept samples of every brand of oil, gasoline, and cigarette sold. Still others are those whose lives and now nearly obsolete professions represent the passing of an era; a Pullman porter; a North Carolina hat blocker; an Alabama herbalist/folk doctor; a hobo; a 96-year-old female justice of the peace. Like traveling the Blue Highways with Studs Terkel, Isay's visits amplify lives richly and fully--if sometimes weirdly--lived. (50 duotones)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-393-03754-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1995