THE SURVIVAL OF THE BARK CANOE by John McPhee
Kirkus Star

THE SURVIVAL OF THE BARK CANOE

KIRKUS REVIEW

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.
Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1975
ISBN: 0374516936
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1975




MORE BY JOHN MCPHEE

NonfictionSILK PARACHUTE by John McPhee
by John McPhee
NonfictionUNCOMMON CARRIERS by John McPhee
by John McPhee
NonfictionTHE FOUNDING FISH by John McPhee
by John McPhee