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Seduced by the government's offer of 320 acres per homesteader, Americans and Europeans rushed to Montana and the Dakotas to fulfill their own American dream in the first decade of this century. Raban's stunning evocation of the harrowing, desperate reality behind the homesteader's dream strips away the myth--while preserving the romance--that has shrouded our understanding of our own heartland. (From the Hardcover edition.)
Put Jonathan Raban on a boat and the results will be fascinating, and never more so than when he's sailing around the serpentine, 2,000-mile coast of his native England. In this acutely perceived and beautifully written book, the bestselling author of Bad Land turns that voyage-which coincided with the Falklands war of 1982-into an occasion for meditations on his country, his childhood, and the elusive notion of home. Whether he's chatting with bored tax exiles on the Isle of Man, wrestling down a mainsail during a titanic gale, or crashing a Scottish house party where the kilted guests turn out to be Americans, Raban is alert to the slightest nuance of meaning. One can read Coasting for his precise naturalistic descriptions or his mordant comments on the new England, where the principal industry seems to be the marketing of Englishness. But one always reads it with pleasure.From the Trade Paperback edition.
For more than thirty years, Jonathan Raban has written with infectious fascination about people and places in transition or on the margins, about journeys undertaken and destinations never quite reached, and, as an expat, about what it means to feel rooted in America. Spanning two decades, Driving Home charts a course through the Pacific Northwest, American history, and current events as witnessed by "a super-sensitive, all-seeing eye. Proving that an outsider is the keenest observer of the scene that natives take for granted, this collection of Jonathan Raban's essays affirms his place as the most literate, perceptive, and humorous commentator on the places, characters, and obsessions that constitute the American scene. Raban spots things we might otherwise miss; he calls up the apt metaphors that transform things into phenomena. "He is one of our most gifted observers." (Newsday).
For more than thirty years, Jonathan Raban has written with infectious fascination about people and places in transition or on the margins, about journeys undertaken and destinations never quite reached, and, as an Englishman transplanted in Seattle, about what it means to feel rooted in America. Spanning two decades, Driving Home charts a course through the Pacific Northwest, American history, and current events as witnessed by a super-sensitive, all-seeing eye. Raban spots things we might otherwise miss; he calls up the apt metaphors that transform things into phenomena. He is one of our most gifted observers" (Newsday). Stops en route include a Missoula bar, a Tea Party convention in Nashville hosted by Sarah Palin, the Mississippi in full flood, a trip to Hawaii with his daughter, a steelhead river in the Cascades, and the hidden corners of his adopted hometown, Seattle. He deftly explores public and personal spaces, poetry and politics, geography and catastrophe, art and economy, and the shifts in various arenas that define our society. Whether the topic is Robert Lowell or Barack Obama, or how various painters, explorers, and homesteaders have engaged with our mythical and actual landscape, he has an outsider's eye for the absurd, and his tone is intimate, never nostalgic, and always fresh. Frank, witty, and provocative, Driving Home is part essay collection, part diary--and irresistibly insightful about America's character, contradictions, and idiosyncrasies.
From Jonathan Raban, the award-winning author of Bad Land and Passage to Juneau, comes this quirky and insightful story of what can happen when one can and does go home again. For the past thirty years, George Grey has been a ship bunker in the fictional west African nation of Montedor, but now he's returning home to England--to a daughter who's a famous author he barely knows, to a peculiar new friend who back in the sixties was one of England's more famous singers, and to the long and empty days of retirement during which he's easy prey to the melancholy of memories, all the more acute since the woman he loves is still back in Africa. Witty, charming and masterly crafted, Foreign Land is an exquisitely moving tale of awkward relationships and quiet redemption.
A New York Times Notable Book"In an era of jet tourism, [Jonathan Raban] remains a traveler-adventurer in the tradition of . . . Robert Louis Stevenson." --The New York Times Book Review In 1782 an immigrant with the high-toned name J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur--"Heartbreak" in English--wrote a pioneering account of one European's transformation into an American. Some two hundred years later Jonathan Raban, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, arrived in Crèvecoeur's wake to see how America has paid off for succeeding generations of newcomers. The result is an exhilarating, often deliciously funny book that is at once a travelogue, a social history, and a love letter to the United States. In the course of Hunting Mr. Heartbreak, Raban passes for homeless in New York and tries to pass for a good ol' boy in Alabama (which entails "renting" an elderly black lab). He sees the Protestant work ethic perfected by Korean immigrants in Seattle--one of whom celebrates her new home as "So big! So green! So wide-wide-wide!"--and repudiated by the lowlife of Key West. And on every page of this peerlessly observant work, Raban makes us experience America with wonder, humor, and an unblinking eye for its contradictions. "Raban delivers himself of some of the most memorable prose ever written about urban America." --Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times"When Raban describes America and Americans, he is unfailingly witty and entertaining." --Salman RushdieFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
The author of Bad Land realizes a lifelong dream as he navigates the waters of the Mississippi River in a spartan sixteen-foot motorboat, producing yet another masterpiece of contemporary American travel writing. In the course of his voyage, Raban records the mercurial caprices of the river and the astonishingly varied lives of the people who live along its banks. Whether he is fishing for walleye or hunting coon, discussing theology in Prairie Du Chien or race relations in Memphis, he is an expert observer of the heartyland's estrangement from America's capitals ot power and culture, and its helpless nostalgia for its lost past. Witty, elegaic, and magnificently erudite, Old Glory is as filled with strong currents as the Mississippi itself.From the Trade Paperback edition.
With the same rigorous observation (natural and social), invigorating stylishness, and encyclopedic learning that he brought to his National Book Award-winning Bad Land, Jonathan Raban conducts readers along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau. The physical distance is 1,000 miles of difficult-and often treacherous-water, which Raban navigates solo in a 35-foot sailboat.But Passage to Juneau also traverses a gulf of centuries and cultures: the immeasurable divide between the Northwest's Indians and its first European explorers-- between its embattled fishermen and loggers and its pampered new class. Along the way, Raban offers captivating discourses on art, philosophy, and navigation and an unsparing narrative of personal loss.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Lucy Bengstrom had always dreamed of living in Seattle. From her remote childhood home, it seemed an Oz -- a city of possibilities and fantastic, distant pleasures. But now, in 2005, living alone with her eleven-year-old daughter Alida, things seem less clear-cut. Post 9/11, the promise of homeland security and the implication of severe vulnerability are closely bound together. When Lucy is asked to write about August Vanagas, a reclusive international bestselling author, Lucy becomes intrigued by his story. His memoir of his childhood as an orphaned boy adrift in Europe during the Second World War seems to reveal the most painful of truths, but the more she learns, the more questions she has ... To Alida's generation - plugged into iPods, used to having their lives watched and documented - the virtual world is as important (if not more so) than the real one. She and her schoolfriends defer to The Geek, giving him muffins and doughnuts in exchange for his knowledge of writing computer codes that promise make their websites ever cooler. Struggling to interpret her world, Alida gathers information about her family and friends in the hope she can develop a human algebra which will help make sense of the way people are. Tad lives in the same apartment block as Lucy and Alida. He's an out-of-work actor and an activist, driven to earn money by taking part in government sponsored mock terrorist attacks staged in the city. Disenchanted by the US administration and all it stands for, he spends sleepless nights surfing the internet, tracking news stories around the world, trying to pin down a nugget of truth in a vast sea of propaganda. Who can you trust when the lines between fact and fiction become so blurred?
At the turn of the millennium, two immigrants are drawn to the United States by their own versions of the American Dream. For Tom Janeway - a Hungarian-born English intellectual most at home with his books - it's the family he thought he'd never have. For Chick - an illegal alien newly escaped from a cargo container - it's the land of plenty he imagined back in China. But as the stock market hits a new high, anti-globalist riots break out in the streets, a terrorist is arrested and a child disappears, the two men's dreams collide in a way neither could have anticipated. Unjustly accused of a horrific crime, estranged from his wife and his beloved young son, Tom's life is rapidly unravelling. Chick, meanwhile, has a burgeoning business by day but no safe place to lay his bed at night. For both, the New World proves surprisingly full of old ways. Waxwings is a masterwork. Exquisitely written, moving, funny and hugely entertaining, it brilliantly captures the landscape and life of contemporary America, and it confirms Jonathan Raban as one of our very finest writers.