Tasty, light nourishment for nature buffs.




An absorbing tale of one man’s retreat into the Maine woods, padded with a healthy history of the back-to-nature movement.

E, the Environmental Magazine editor Motavalli (Breaking Gridlock: Moving Toward Transportation That Works, 2001, etc.) spotlights Joseph Knowles, who in August 1913 at age 43 removed his clothing to the fanfare of well-wishers and journalists from the sponsoring Boston Post and stepped into the Maine Dead River wilderness for a solitary two-month sojourn. An artist, former hunting guide, Navy man and Maine native, Knowles left dispatches along the way, written in charcoal on birchbark parchment, detailing his experiences subsisting on native fruits and vegetables, killing deer and even a bear in a deadfall trap for meat and clothing. Emerging on Oct. 4 across the Canadian border (he had failed to secure the proper hunting permits and was being tracked by American officials), he was an instant celebrity. He published a book about his sensational adventure (Alone in the Wilderness) and toured for a few weeks in vaudeville. As Motavalli explains in this refreshing if rather meandering work, Knowles’s stunt dovetailed nicely with America’s growing interest in nature, as people moved from farms to factories and began to long nostalgically for the wilderness. It was also the era of yellow journalism, and in November 1913 the Boston Sunday American published an exposé charging that “Nature Man” had in fact been luxuriating in a log cabin for two months with a “manager,” later identified in a 1938 New Yorker piece as journalist Michael McKeogh. It hardly mattered, opines the good-natured author, who uses Knowles’s stunt to digress on such topics as the establishment of the character-building Boy Scouts; consciousness-raising by naturalists John Muir, Ernest Thompson Seton and John Burroughs; and the sensational life of Ishi, “the last wild Indian,” whose emergence from the California woods made headlines two years before Knowles did.

Tasty, light nourishment for nature buffs.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-786-72008-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...


A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich...



A reflective and entertaining journey through Japan, as the author seeks to reconnect with his martial arts sensei.

Lowry is a student of koryu (not to be confused with kendo), a style of Japanese classical swordsmanship. Koryu is a medieval art, like Noh and the tea ceremony, a style of combat born on the battlefield–but more importantly, it’s a way to address the world (though an esoteric one: Lowry may well be the only American practicing the art in the United States). Indeed, present-day practitioners refrain from exercising its fatal possibilities. Lowry’s sensei left the U.S. to return to Japan, urging Lowry to follow. Though his life headed in a different direction, he never forgot his training–when the time was ripe, he journeyed to Japan to join his sensei. The narrative revolves around this pivotal decision, and it provides a warm center from which the author expounds on such topics as the glories of a Japanese bath; the evolution of the Samurai caste; the peculiarities of Japanese landscape architecture; the elements of proper sandal-tying; the custom of the premarital shenanigans called yobai; and the teachings of mikkyo Buddhism. He also includes the vital story of the sword–what it reveals about Japanese life and technology, social structure and aesthetic values, etiquette, apprenticeship and the process of education. Lowry’s seriousness lends an earnest cast to the proceedings, but he’s not without a sense of humor–commenting upon his accomplished slurping of noodles, a friend’s wife notes, “He really sucks!”

A broad and deep look at Japan’s medieval referents, and a capable illustration of a martial art form steeped in rich tradition.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-890536-10-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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