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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long before Sarah P...
If one were playing a word association game today, for better or worse, the subject former governor is the person most often linked with our largest state, Alaska. And tis a pity, that. (Just Google the state, and see what tumbles out.)

John McPhee is a prolific writer, at times making "The New Yorker" even a better magazine. In the mid-70's, McPhee, who is...
Published on 27 May 2011 by John P. Jones III

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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars new joisey boy sees a bear
this book is so dated it is meaningless. the method is similarly outdated and vapid. the author's book on the swiss army shows the same faults. he goes to visit his wife's family in the FRENCH part of CH, meets a few guys in the army on their summer weeks duty and goes on to tell us all about everything, as if he knows it all
duh, the swiss army is 90% german. as the...
Published on 13 Jun 2011 by medieres


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long before Sarah P..., 27 May 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
If one were playing a word association game today, for better or worse, the subject former governor is the person most often linked with our largest state, Alaska. And tis a pity, that. (Just Google the state, and see what tumbles out.)

John McPhee is a prolific writer, at times making "The New Yorker" even a better magazine. In the mid-70's, McPhee, who is urbane, and erudite, turned his attention, and keen sense of observation, to the state dubbed "The Last Frontier." Alaska had been purchased from the Russians shortly after the American Civil War, for a bit over $ 7 million. It was called "Seward's Folly," after the Secretary of State who authorized one of the ultimate bargains in real estate. It took almost a century for enough people to coalesce, and merit a couple Senators and a Representative to nominally defend their economic interests in far off Washington.

It was McPhee who "introduced" me to the Brooks Range, eponymously named after Alfred H., the Geologist in Chief of the Division of the Alaskan Mineral Resource. Remote, difficult to reach, in the far north of the state, it has now become one of our least visited National Parks. McPhee also introduced me to the grizzly bear, "an opportunistic eater," (nothing personal you understand) who needs "...for his forage at least fifty and perhaps a hundred square miles that are all his own..." McPhee describes a "playful" grizzly too, who, after emerging from his den, "...will climb to the brink of some impossible schuss, sit down on his butt, and shove off. Thirty-two, sixty-four, ninety-six feet per second, he plummets down the mountainside, spray snow flying to either side...just short of catastrophe....he flips to his feet and walks sedately onward as if his ride had not occurred."

The second part of the book covers urban Alaska, and he focused on the political effort to move the capital away from Juneau (which is still inaccessible by road from the US) to a more central location. He tags along with the "Capital Site Selection Committee" and records snippets of conversation, but you have the sense that his heart is not in the machinations. Instead, he seems all too often to be looking out the window, at the compelling scenery: "The mountain was a megahedron--its high white facets doming in the air. Long snow banners, extending eastward, were pluming from the ridges about twenty thousand feet."

The third and final part of the book, over half of it, lends its title to the entire book. McPhee goes to Eagle, the ultimate in "getaways," yet still being in the States. It is nestled on the Yukon River, near the Canadian territory of the same name. And the true fascination of the book is McPhee's insights and depictions of the people who have decided to make Eagle their last refuge. The author (literally) claims the spectrum is larger than we can see: "In the spectrum of Eagle society, the fundamentalists are all the way over in the ultraviolet, beyond the threshold of visible light... (the) liberal(s), certainly in some ways lawless, are at the opposite end, deep into the infrared." ) A few years after this book was published, Joe McGinnis would publish his own observations on Alaska, entitled Going to Extremes In depicting the citizens of Eagle, the word "idiosyncratic" would become as worn as a smooth pebble in the Yukon, but McPhee has a wonderful ability to see, and write each person's story afresh. Of the numerous characterizations, I particularly enjoyed the one of the "speakeasy," and its denizens, worthy of the folks who inhabited Steinbeck's Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) and Tortilla Flat (Penguin Modern Classics)

A la the Michelin Guide, any book that inspires a journey merits the top rating in stars, and a couple years after I first read the book, I did manage a visit to Alaska, in 1983. Alas, the Brooks Range, as well as Eagle, remained elusive. Perhaps there is still time. In the meantime, 5-stars for McPhee's account, of Alaska as it used to be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It may send you there ..., 15 Nov 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
In the summer of '81, Jane told me, "You have to read this book!" and meant to give it to me for a birthday gift. However, before she had a chance, I had bought the book and was 80 pages into it. Two summers later, I found myself walking along a desolate stretch of the Alcan Highway in Canada's Yukon Territory. I was hitchhiking to Alaska, a place I felt destined to visit having read "Coming into the Country". I never did make it to Eagle (the village described at length by McPhee) but nonetheless remained "in country" until my money ran out five months later. Few books I have read yield such a feel for a place as this one does.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lucid, lyrical account of America's last frontier., 26 Dec 1995
By A Customer
John McPhee is a master at weaving many stories together into a coherent whole. Here he uses these skills to paint a portrait of the varied and often conflicting interests that co-habit today's Alaska. He shifts perspective, examining now the modern-day pioneer who seeks to escape the modern world, and then the representatives of that same world, the government agents and politicians who have their own agenda for America's largest state. This book is wonderfully written in a lucid, literary prose. McPhee puts many other writers of non-fiction, and many of our best literary writers, to shame.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books, 5 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
I've read this book 5 times because it fills a huge hole in my heart that has grown wider due to urbanization. My favorite part is the bush and the characters living there. The feeling you get from these people being grounded to the earth literally is so refreshing yet life is hard and living in Alaska is not like looking at a postcard from there. Anyone needing a sense of spiritual uplift should check out this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Tricky, imaginative: McPhee at his best., 9 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
If you already love McPhee's work or are interested in trying him, Coming into the Country will fulfill any expectations. The completed book leaves one with a profound sense of having been there, as well as having recieved a considerable lecture on back-country living. McPhee's ability to wrap lessons, stories, personalities, cultures, habitats and countrysides into an intriguing package makes this book a must.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Literary suprise and Alaskan bush., 17 April 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
McPhee opens his three part book with "The Encircled River," which doesn't describe a circular river or something simple like that, but rather is a very clever literary trick to illustrate a backpacking trip into the remote Brooks Range. The rest of the book is just as effective. McPhee's portrait of Alaska is highly literate and engrossing.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars new joisey boy sees a bear, 13 Jun 2011
This review is from: Coming into the Country (Paperback)
this book is so dated it is meaningless. the method is similarly outdated and vapid. the author's book on the swiss army shows the same faults. he goes to visit his wife's family in the FRENCH part of CH, meets a few guys in the army on their summer weeks duty and goes on to tell us all about everything, as if he knows it all
duh, the swiss army is 90% german. as the lazy and useless french speaking swiss say, "we will fight to the last swiss german"
same thing in alaska. meets a few people and writes them up his journal. today it would be a blog. making it a book somehow seems to make it more serious. and armchair readers back in the east lap it up.
i have seen a tv doc where the film crew spent a winter in a cabin with alaskans. much more informative.
this book is ok, just. there are some interesting anecdotes, as you would expect from anybody who spent a few weeks in alaska. the author makes no real effort though. anybody could have written this, a trainee journalist for a school project.
cut and paste facts and notes from a diary.
now that we have wikipedia, blogs and google earth, books like this have no raison d'Ítre
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Coming into the Country
Coming into the Country by John A. McPhee (Paperback - April 1991)
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