Coming Into the Country

Coming Into the Country

This is the story of Alaska and the Alaskans. Written with a vividness and clarity which shifts scenes frequently, and yet manages to tie the work into a rewarding whole, McPhee segues from the wilderness to life in urban Alaska to the remote bush country....

DownloadRead Online
Title:Coming Into the Country
Author:John McPhee
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Coming Into the Country Reviews

  • Tony

    Things I learned about Alaska:

    --

    . This is so because bushplane trips are more common than taxis or driving, the roads being what they are.

    --

    .

    -- That somethings are better left unchanged or not re-named:

    Things I learned about Alaska:

    --

    . This is so because bushplane trips are more common than taxis or driving, the roads being what they are.

    --

    .

    -- That somethings are better left unchanged or not re-named:

    I learned the difference between a visitor and a tourist in Alaska:

    .

    I learned that Alaska is a great place for nicknames: Pete the Pig, Pistolgrip Jim, Groundsluice Bill, Coolgardie Smith, Codfish Tom, Doc LaBooze, the Evaporated Kid, Fisty McDonald, John the Baptist, Cheeseham Sam, and the Man with the Big Nugget. I actually came across a Codfish in my own travels, but I have an odd job.

    I learned that bear scat is "fairly, but not acutely fresh" when it "glistens but has stopped smoking." Not everything I learned will I actually use.

    I learned that Alaska, at least the Alaska of 1977, was a place where people, tired of government and other people, fled to. I learned that the government followed them there and refused to let them alone. I learned that Alaskans are prone to a philosophy: LIVE EACH DAY SO THAT YOU CAN LOOK EVERY DAMN MAN IN THE EYE AND TELL HIM TO GO TO HELL.

    We need such people. At least we need a place where such people could go. A place I might go if it wasn't so cold.

    .

    This was another wonderful trip that John McPhee took me on. It's dated, to be sure. But wonderful characters are portrayed; good stories told. In the battle between independent, brave individuals and a pedantic, fuzzy-wuzzy government, John McPhee leaves no doubt whose side he is on.

  • Graychin

    A year or two out of college I was employed at a bookshop in Seattle, earning little more than minimum wage. For a change of scene, I signed up with some friends to work the salmon season at a cannery in Alaska. It was rough work, seven days a week, 8am to 11pm (or to 1am on nights when you had cleanup duty). We didn’t get to see much of “real Alaska,” but you could feel it around you. The wilderness.

    The cannery was located on an island in the southeast of the state. The town was small for anyp

    A year or two out of college I was employed at a bookshop in Seattle, earning little more than minimum wage. For a change of scene, I signed up with some friends to work the salmon season at a cannery in Alaska. It was rough work, seven days a week, 8am to 11pm (or to 1am on nights when you had cleanup duty). We didn’t get to see much of “real Alaska,” but you could feel it around you. The wilderness.

    The cannery was located on an island in the southeast of the state. The town was small for anyplace other than Alaska, with not much more than a single road. The rest of the island was uninhabited. People wandering into the interior were sometimes never heard from again. No one went in search of them. It was assumed the wolves or bears had got them. The moss and muskeg would hide their bones.

    Though I saw little of Alaska, it was enough to grasp its fascination. If my sense of it had faded some over the past twenty years, McPhee’s wonderful book has helped to revive it. I suddenly find myself scheming ways to get the wife and kids up north on vacation as soon as possible.

    One of my college professors first introduced me to John McPhee. It was a writing course, and he was reading brief passages from one of McPhee’s books (I don’t recall which one), lingering over certain passages and expostulating on the genius of his prose, his crystalline expressions. McPhee is rarely flashy. There is no false posturing. He is curious, broad, but crisp, fresh, clear.

    My former favorite of McPhee’s books (among those I have read) was

    , but

    is just as good. The first part of it follows McPhee on an outing in the total wild of the Brooks Range. The second has to do with the politics of the state circa 1977. The third, and by far the longest, is the best. In it, McPhee lives with and among the trappers, the miners, the townspeople, the hippie kids and the Athapaskan natives of the Yukon River country near the Canadian border.

    In this small but broadly scattered and loose-knit community, McPhee finds all the hope, discontent and anxiety of the human condition. It’s a parable (perhaps) of the riddling complexities that face us today, finding ourselves to be a part of the natural order and yet standing, somehow, outside of it.

  • Lobstergirl

    I was really hoping this would be about geology, along the lines of

    . It wasn't. It's divided into three sections; in the first, McPhee wanders around unpopulated Alaska with several other men in several canoes/kayaks. I think one was from the Sierra Club, one from the Bureau of Land Management, etc. They fished to supplement their food supplies, and camped along the rivers and streams. The second section was about the attempt to get Alaska's capital moved from Juneau. I now know

    I was really hoping this would be about geology, along the lines of

    . It wasn't. It's divided into three sections; in the first, McPhee wanders around unpopulated Alaska with several other men in several canoes/kayaks. I think one was from the Sierra Club, one from the Bureau of Land Management, etc. They fished to supplement their food supplies, and camped along the rivers and streams. The second section was about the attempt to get Alaska's capital moved from Juneau. I now know more about this issue than I ever wanted to. At the end of the section it really sounded like the move was going to come off; people voted and wanted the capital moved to Willow. (This was written in 1977.) But a check of the primary authority on such matters, Wikipedia, shows that Juneau is still the capital, so McPhee must have been stoned or something when he wrote that sentence.

    In the third section McPhee moved to Eagle, a teeny tiny town on the Yukon River, and pretty much just interviewed the residents of Eagle and told us their stories. Some are interesting; some aren't. (The 2010 census showed the population of Eagle as 86.)

    In spite of the need for women to be tough in the wilds of Alaska, there are no women's libbers here. The women do all the cookin' and much, much more; wood choppin', skinnin' of critters, waitin' for the menfolk to come a-home from their trips.

    Maybe a few people sound relatively sane, but most sound a bit crazy. Or a lot crazy. There are your Cliven Bundy types up there. They don't like the people of the lower 48 dictating the rules in Alaska. Alaska is different. People of Alaska, hear me: Alaska is not different. It is a state that in many respects is qualitatively different from, say, Connecticut. It is not legally, Constitutionally, different. Because you build a cabin on a plot of land, trap and hunt your own critters for food, bulldoze yourself a gravel landing strip for your little plane, it does not follow that you now own that land. Don't get all uppity when the Bureau of Land Management comes to tell you you don't actually own that land. You know how I know I own my home? Because I wrote a check; the bank agreed to supply the rest; we had a ceremony (with lawyers for both sides) where we all signed many sheets of paper; and at the end of it one of these sheets of paper was the title and deed to my home. Plus I pay real estate taxes on this home. If the Bureau of Land Management comes to tell me I don't own my home, then we have a problem. You, Alaska trapper and fisher with no title to your little cabin, you don't have a problem.

    McPhee's writing style wears thin. This was 438 pages of it.

  • Brian

    This book has meant a lot to me as an Alaskan interested in the raggedy interplay between development and conservationism, although I had never read it in its entirety. Now I have. I would say this book at best offers a kind, sympathetic view of all sorts of Alaskans circa 1977, a period which I just barely remember from grade school. I still recall the statewide debate on whether to give "Mount McKinley" the new/old name of "Denali" as part of ANILCA, then called the D-2 Lands Bill, which was a

    This book has meant a lot to me as an Alaskan interested in the raggedy interplay between development and conservationism, although I had never read it in its entirety. Now I have. I would say this book at best offers a kind, sympathetic view of all sorts of Alaskans circa 1977, a period which I just barely remember from grade school. I still recall the statewide debate on whether to give "Mount McKinley" the new/old name of "Denali" as part of ANILCA, then called the D-2 Lands Bill, which was a hot-button topic (i.e. federal take-over) for Alaskans such as my parents. I remember the debate to move the capital to Willow. I remember John Denver's goodwill trip to Alaska to promote conservation and the passage of ANILCA. It was all HIGHLY charged politics in which the feds were dabbling, playing, frivolizing with OUR land. The outgrowth of both the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act are INCREDIBLY far reaching with regards to living and working in Alaska today. In that respect, the first two chapters of the book are now dated and rather nostalgic, kind of a time-capsule of what was going on while these landmark Congressional laws were being sussed out.

    The chapter "Coming Into The Country" (nearly half of the book) on the Yukon River/Charley River area of Interior Alaska was by far the best part of the book, focusing on the communities of Central, Circle, and Eagle and the idealistic, sometimes hard-nosed characters that live there. Although McPhee, in what I've read, was an impressionable young man leaning to the side of environmental conservation at the expense of economic development, I think his writing in this book shows both a reverence for Alaska's brand of wilderness (in a word, awesome) as well as a sympathetic, humane perspective on the toll that Congressional protectionism, environmental regulation, and romantic idealism has on the lives of real families living in "the country".

    (The best writing is the transcription of journal entries made by a young man, Rich Corazza, living alone in a cabin somewhere around Eagle. This section is one third into the last section "Coming Into The Country" and made me grin and laugh out loud. A true seeker with a good dose of humor and longing.)

  • Jacob

    Alaska, the early 1960s. Darkness covered the land. The latest winter storm, which by then had already lasted half a century, still showed no sign of ending. The cold and the snow were beginning to wear the proud Alaskans down. Then Russia invaded. Again. The fledgling state was unprepared for war, and so the Alaskan Militia fell back before the forces of the Dark Lord Stalin, and the Red Army of Moscow reached the walls of Juneau. For two days and nights the city was bombarded by communist orcs

    Alaska, the early 1960s. Darkness covered the land. The latest winter storm, which by then had already lasted half a century, still showed no sign of ending. The cold and the snow were beginning to wear the proud Alaskans down. Then Russia invaded. Again. The fledgling state was unprepared for war, and so the Alaskan Militia fell back before the forces of the Dark Lord Stalin, and the Red Army of Moscow reached the walls of Juneau. For two days and nights the city was bombarded by communist orcs. On February 11, 1964, the third day of the seige, a light appeared on the horizon. It was the sun! After fifty years of endless night, dawn finally broke over Alaska! Rousing the defenders, the mighty wizard Ted Stevens the White led the final charge and drove the Red Army into the sea. Alaska won the day.

    Ten years passed.

    In the early 70s, the Prophet McPhee came to Alaska. He had had visions since the Great Dawn, terrible, awe-inspiring visions of a woman in red riding a war-grizzly. The priests he spoke to all agreed: it was the Mother of Grizzlies, Daughter of Alaska, the great Messiah-Queen of the prophecies who would restore the mighty Alaskan Empire to glory and lead Her armies out of the North to conquer the Lower 48. The Return of the Sun had marked the hour of Her birth, but none had seen sign of Her since. And so the Prophet McPhee vowed to find Her. Assembling a party of shamen, slaves (bearing gifts of gold, jewels, and newspapers), and mages from the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, the Department of Fish and Game, and other government agencies, McPhee set out into the widerness. Questions arose: was the Mother of Grizzlies also Daughter of Grizzlies, or was She merely a feral child, raised and educated in the ways of the bear? Would they find Her feasting on fish and berries, or did She hibernate in the caves of bears, sleeping until Alaska needed a savior? Russia had been silent for many years, but would surely invade again.

    The expedition failed; most of the party was eaten by wolves or lost in skirmishes with the National Park Service, so they returned to Juneau. It was clear that, wherever the Queen of Alaska was, She would not reveal Herself until the time was right. So Alaska waited, and prepared. And the question was asked: where would Her Capital be? Juneau was not grand enough, and Anchorage and Fairbanks still lay in ruins from the war, so the Prophet McPhee again set out into the wilderness, again with his shamen and slaves and government bureaucrats, to find a suitable place to build Her Palace. And again the shamen were eaten by wolves, and the bureaucrats bickered, and the slaves revolted, so McPhee went back to Juneau.

    The quest seemed hopeless. McPhee had not found the Chosen One or built Her City, and all his shamen were dead. But, inspired by rumors of a secret messiah breeding program, he set off alone, on a third expedition, following the elusive trail of a powerful sisterhood of sorceress-nuns. Here the narrative grows sketchy, as McPhee’s accounts of interviews of dozens of gold miners, hermits, holy men, ice-mages, and the occasional talking bear led him in dizzying circles, endlessly searching for a treasure that chose to remain secret.

    McPhee apparently never found the Mother of Grizzlies, and left Alaska in disgrace. There are rumors, however, that he drank himself to death, only to be resurrected by an unidentified hirsute girl, but those stories remain unverified. Even McPhee’s account must be questioned. Were his visions true? Did he truly foresee the birth and rise of Alaska’s savior? If so, She remains hidden, and perhaps none will know the hour of Her coming.

    Where is the bear and the rider? Where is the voice that is grating? IA! IA! SARAH PALIN FHTAGN!

Best Books Online is in no way intended to support illegal activity. Use it at your risk. We uses Search API to find books/manuals but doesn´t host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners. Please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them


©2019 Best Books Online - All rights reserved.