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THE ADIRONDACKS by Paul Schneider

THE ADIRONDACKS

A History of America's First Wilderness

By Paul Schneider

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-3490-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

 A crisp, filigreed history of the Adirondacks--from their beginnings in Grenville orogeny to last year's trapping harvest- -from Schneider, an editor at Mirabella. There is something about the Adirondacks--six million acres of forest and water and biting flies in northern New York State, half public, half private--that has drawn to it painters and scientists, hunters and trappers, the sick and weary looking for surcease, writers and philosophers in search of answers. Biologically, it sports an impressive 90 percent of the known animal species in the eastern half of the country. Spiritually, it has hosted the likes of Thoreau and Emerson (``in the wilderness we return to reason and faith''). Painters--Cole, Homer, Remington--have been inspired by its raw beauty. It has heard the ring of ax and buzz of sawmill, felt seekers of iron and lead and garnet excavate its ground. Great camps, more an embodiment of nature tamed than nature wild, but of undeniable architectural and decorative ingenuity, were built along its shores. The history of geologic thought was in part minted here, wilderness guides were mythologized here, John Brown (of Brown University) held a big claim here, and a later John Brown's body lies moldering in his grave on the small stake he owned there. And of course, there are the black flies. Any which way you look at it, the place is a gold mine. What makes Schneider's book distinctive is that he not only quarries these obvious attention- grabbers, but as well does a neat job of explicating the more mundane matters of the park, in particular the sometimes peaceful co-existence, sometimes dysfunctional marriage between private and public notions of the future of the parkland. For a slice of real estate that doesn't suffer from literary neglect, Schneider's contribution is a welcome, lively, and ranging consideration. (photos, not seen)