Edward Hoagland (author); ALASKAN TRAVELS; Arcade Publishing (Nonfiction: Essays) 22.95 ISBN: 9781611455038
Byline: Teresa Scollon
Reading Edward Hoagland, accomplished naturalist and writer, or rather, losing oneself in Hoagland's muscular and multitasking prose, one is quickly convinced that the only reliable way to depict a place is by the written word. Alaskan Travels is Hoagland's account of 1980s Alaska, as he experienced it in the company of his love, a nurse named Linda. Linda is responsible for the state's TB care, and she travels by bush plane to remote villages and hunting camps to test and monitor patients, dispensing medical care as needed along the way. Her role provides cover for Hoagland, and he makes the most of it, camping on schoolroom floors with her, watching dog races, and conversing with everyone: Inuit, Indians, hunters, Russian Orthodox priests, biologists, and merchants. He interviews developer millionaires and witnesses Linda's quiet conversations with elderly Indians who are dying of liver cancer in remote cabins far from medical care, but with a view of the tundra and the northern lights.
Hoagland doesn't so much follow a narrative line, though the love affair threads tenderly through this book, as he layers image and story, roughly sorting this dense prose into chapters with titles such as "Salmon and Dogs."
The result is painterly, rich, a multisensory awareness of a culture's varied historical and cultural components. It's not a static portrait; Hoagland is alert to the impacts of...