The acclaimed writer offers a collection of essays about America and Americana.

Arranged chronologically (1993–2010), these pieces chart Raban’s (Surveillance, 2007, etc.) move in 1990 from London to Seattle and show his various explorations of the geography, politics and sociology of his newly adopted land. In the introduction, he writes about his love of reading, crediting his mother for teaching the skill and instilling the desire and critic William Empson for showing him how to read deeply. (Empson reappears in Raban’s penultimate piece.) Throughout, Raban reveals the traits that have long endeared him to his readers—a curiosity about the quirkiness of people and places, a ferocious love for the land, an elegance (but never pretentiousness) of style, self-deprecation and an unusual ability to inhabit the imaginations of his interlocutors. In the forests around Seattle, for example, he displays his understanding of both loggers and tree-huggers, land-lovers and -developers. He understands resentments. In the title essay, readers may be amused to note that he records a visit to Forks, Wash., now world-famous as the setting for the Twilight novels. Throughout his American odyssey, Raban writes about Mark Twain, Puget Sound, the Mississippi River floods, the dams on the Columbia River, waves along the Oregon coast, the sailor Joshua Slocum, sailing, the evolving architecture of Seattle, Seahawks’ fans in Montana, the vicissitudes of Robert Lowell and prominent Republicans (George W. Bush, Sarah Palin) and the Tea Party, for whom he has slight regard. Occasionally, he leaps back to his native England to write of Philip Larkin and George IV. As in any such collection, some repetitiveness emerges, but never enough to annoy. Full of ideas that move through the language with the grace of a well-captained sailboat.


Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-37991-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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