McPhee is one of the few contemporary writers whose own enthusiasm, acquisitive curiosity and delight in the minor marvels evokes a similar reader response. Here the subject is canoes, and McPhee, admiring, intimidated and bemused, pries into the craft of Henri Vaillancourt, a young man from New Hampshire, who makes his own canoes. "He carves their thwarts from hardwood and their ribs from cedar. . . . No nails, no screws, or rivets, just root lashings." Henri, like many artists, is shy, taciturn, vain, and given to occasional headlong decisions in uncertain situations. These qualities were noted by McPhee on a canoe trip (Henri's fourth) with some friends north into the Maine wilderness. "A canoe trip is a society so small and isolated that its frictions. . . can magnify to stunning size." McPhee, in his customary style--as seamless and resilient as one of Henri's canoes--reports on bits of Americana (Indians, voyageurs, loggers) sights and sounds. He observes water and winds, the antics and cries of loons, gathering fresh clams, two full-scale steam locomotives abandoned in the forest, "bits of Thoreau flying back and forth," and a muddy portage; there is also an amusing account of gathering tensions and personality clashes (punctuated by Henri's "bummer!"). McPhee displays none of the exhibitionism of the "personal" journalist, yet his fidelity to the scene never sacrifices vigor and high spirits. Another unique profile by a master craftsman.