Literate prose and a naturalist’s sensibility: a better tour guide would be hard to imagine.



The deepest northern woods or most barren Alaskan wilderness vibrate with life under award-winning journalist Hildebrand’s discerning eye.

It may be the rainwater oozing up from boggy Minnesota farmland under a visitor’s footsteps. Or the “heart-shaped” tracks of white-tailed deer in the Wisconsin forest. Or the shimmering shapes of sockeye salmon heading upstream under a canoe on the Yukon. In 18 old and new essays, Hildebrand (Mapping the Farm, 1995, etc.) couples eerily beautiful natural landscapes with a sense of their fragility. The writing is heartfelt, but there’s no preachiness. For the most part, Hildebrand lets nature do the talking. True, the older essays can feel dated. “Exile's Song” paints an Ireland beset with economic despair and a fleeing population—obviously written before a high-tech invasion transformed Ireland into the “Celtic Tiger” of the last decade. In other cases, though, even the older essays carry a powerful emotional kick. In “Snow on the Mountains,” Hildebrand returns to a remote cabin he and his young bride built in 1972 along Alaska’s Stampede Trail. The marriage dissolved within a few years (after a premature baby died in childbirth), and, returning in 1976, the author finds a strange mixture of regret and solace in the achingly beautiful morning that breaks around his isolation. Hildebrand brings a serenity to the wilderness, and also a sense of literary history. He leads us to Hemingway's Big Two-Hearted River on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and through the same Minnesota prairie that Thoreau, dying of tuberculosis, walked on his final journey in 1843. On California’s Pacific Coast Highway, he mourns our passing from a country of travel-hungry Jack Kerouacs to sedentary Garrison Keillors, now willingly tethered to our “hometowns.” Indeed, whether uncovering Laotian exiles in Minnesota or ancient Indians in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, Hildebrand proves as adept at unearthing the compelling human story as he is at penetrating nature’s subtleties.

Literate prose and a naturalist’s sensibility: a better tour guide would be hard to imagine.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-87351-528-5

Page Count: 5

Publisher: Borealis Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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