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The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua…

The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum

by Geoffrey Wolff

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To read Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World, his pleasurable, meandering, and lyrical account of 46,000 miles and 3 years at sea, and truly understand the wonder of it, the reader should also read this slim biography of the man by Geoffrey Wolff. Slocum's placid tale overlays an extraordinary life, filled with ambition, love, fame, violence, murder, litigation, heroics, and both epic and mutinous adventure. Slocum was a man who, in William James' words, answered all of life's calls for effort with a resounding "Yes, I will even have it so!". He could make the effort that would transform him into a hero, but his timing was never quite right - he was an anachronism.
Whether intended or not, this biography has a mimetic quality - Wolff seems to be always beating to the windward, tacking obliquely toward his subject, and taking the "hard way round". Even his prose seems frequently to be chopped up, with clauses welling up turbulently and awkwardly in mid-sentence. In contrast to Slocum's book, and more in keeping with Slocum's life, there is no sailing large in this account. In reading Wolff's book, however, and in subsequently re-reading Sailing Alone, the reader will be even more astounded by Slocum the man, his feat, and his book. ( )
1 vote maritimer | Mar 13, 2011 |
I grew up loving Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World.” It was “Walden” without the training wheels. Whereas Thoreau made so much of his precious solitude in a shack only a couple of miles from his home in Concord, Slocum actually put himself at risk.
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A portrait of the legendary sea commander traces his rapid rise from an uneducated childhood in mid-nineteenth-century Nova Scotia to the leader of ships that experienced high-danger adventures, including the first documented solo journey around the world.… (more)

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