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Passage To Juneau: A Sea and Its Meaning Paperback – 6 Oct 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (27 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330346296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330346290
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Jonathan Raban's Passage to Juneau is a pure delight, even for the most dedicated landlubbers. On April Fool's Day 1993, Raban set sail in his 35-foot ketch from "virtual reality" Seattle, to travel the 1,000 or so miles up the often turbulent and tricky Inside Passage to Alaska. Despite describing himself as "a timid, weedy, cerebral type, never more out of my element than when I'm at sea", he nevertheless "meant to go fishing for reflections and come back with a glittering haul". And glittering this is, for Raban writes with such vivid acuity and witty iconoclasm about charted and uncharted waters, actual, historical, anthropological, natural and personal--and much else besides. His constants as he threads his course through the fretwork of islands, narrows and passes are tracing Captain Vancouver's 1792 voyage in the Discovery; the Northwest Indians' tenacious relation to the sea that dominated their lives and was mirrored in their art; Edmund Burke's 1757 theory of the sublime (terror was the most necessary ingredient) and the consequent, ecstatic recording of the coastal landscape (not by Vancouver, who found it dull and gloomy, but by his snobbish young upper-class officers); Raban's father's death and its aftermath which interrupted his voyage; and, of course, the sea itself with its six basic movements: pitch, roll, yaw, heave, surge and sway.

Every page offers rewarding observations and colourful commentary: on the death of the great fisheries, the new tourism, a rereading of Shelley and Marcus Aurelius, bird flight, the rigours of outpost life and even indeed the origins of "nookie." All of this makes for an utterly engaging, generously questing, scholarly and richly pleasurable work. --Ruth Petrie

Book Description

'This is Raban at his best, which is saying a great deal' Ian McEwan

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This was a book that had an immediate appeal to me: I live in England, I have worked and lived in Seattle Wa., I love the Pacific North West and I have been to Juneau, Alaska. When I started the book, I wondered if this was a writer who thought that he was a better wordsmith than he actually is. But the more I got into the book, the more I appreciated his interlacing of his own voyage and his observations of the sea and the places he stops at with the voyage of Vancouver, and later, with his reflections about the death of his father. The writing about contemporary England (e.g., about 'estuary English') rang very true. The account of his father's death and funeral was poignant and authentic, although most English people would be a little reluctant to reveal family rifts on the printed page. The book has a sting in the tail in terms of the author's personal life. This is an unusual book but, by the time I finished it, I was convinced that the unorthodox formula worked.
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Leaving Seattle on All Fool's Day 1993 Raban, a latecomer to sailing, sets out to explore the tortuous eccentricities of The Inside Passage north to Juneau in Alaska.He goes 'fishing for reflections.'As in the myths and legends of the Native Americans he studies and interprets Raban finds that when one leaves the apparent sureties of home and community strange and inxeplicable events can occur.Like the hero in some contemporary Greek tragedy signs and omens oppress him, illusion and self-delusion shadow him.Ghosts track him;the original tribes,the moody,bellicose English explorer Captain Vancouver with his recalcitrant crew,fur traders,gold diggers,timbermen, tourists.All leave their tracks but as time passes nature returns and silently covers their trails.Is this a pattern in the apparently all enveloping chaos?
Raban has a sardonic,renaissance mind but also the necessary authorial skills required to make this a stylistic and narrative tour de force.
Passage to Juneau is a personal log, a bleak but often humourous saga in which Raban charts and interprets his inner seascapes and attempts to pilot himself safely through the treacherous tides and shifting currents on which he sails.This is a masterpiece which goes on my shelf next to Peter Matthiessen's, 'The Snow Leopard', and Bruce Chatwin's,'In Patagonia'.
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This is a beautiful, and sombre story, told by one the finest writers of English prose. If you have no interest in travel writing, could not care less for fulsome travel brochure descriptions of scenery or city, find patronising anecdotes of quaint and quirky locals and their customs annoying then this is the type of travel writing that you may want to read.
Mr Raban sets off from Seattle with the intention of sailing his yatch single handed to Juneau in Alkaska by a route known as the Inside Passage. A serpentine journey round islands,and reefs. There are tricky, dangerous tidal races, half submerged logs,and sudden violent squalls to be avoided. It is a daunting journey for a middle aged man, who readily admits to being a timid, and nervous sailor. He is out of his depth, and he knows it. Hence the description of the actual sailing is one of constant watchfulness, and anxiety. Hazards real and fanciful keep him in a state of permanent neurosis, constantly looking for a sheltered anchorage where he can ride out the storm or calm his nerves.

Mr Raban has taken a keen interest in the history of the native Americans who live on the west coast of America, and his opinions of their culture and development are scholarly, and humane. He is amused by the contemporary view of the Indians as proto-enviromentalists at one with nature, when they patently were not. Also he has taken a keen interest in the activities of the first European explorers and settlers of the region and makes constant references to the voyage of Captain Vancouver along the same route as his own in 1797.
But the real interest and drama lie not in the voyage or the history but with the author. As the voyage progresses Mr Raban emerges as the real story, not merely it's narrator.
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So much more than a pure travel book, this is also a moving personal account of a difficult time for the author (which completely avoids any self indulgence ) as well as being brim full of superbly written asides on a number of historical, political, envorimental as well as numerous other issues relevant to this facsinating part of the world. Jonathan Raban could not write badly if he tried and with the gift of the really fine ciommunicator even managed to interest me in anthrpology...and that takes some doing This is the best book I have read by one of the finest writers around. Entrhalling, challenging and unputdownable I hate gushing about books, but it is hard to do otherwise!
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I read Coasting when it first came out and loved it. I read it again a month or so and it was even better; possibly because it gave a well balanced historical perspective of that time. Juneau is more of an adult grand livre in that it is much denser, longer, bitty, random, more intense and harder to read. A sort of superior Nautical Bill Bryson. I still enjoyed it though. The mapping illustrations are dreadful. He could have at least made them bigger, more detailed - perhaps with his route actually marked
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