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Passage To Juneau

December 27, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 144

Having scoured the arid dustbowls of Montana in Bad Land, Jonathan heads off on the opposite tack in his latest work. Passage To Juneau sees the travel-writing heavyweight attempt a seaborne journey from his home-city Seattle to the craggy, iceberg-frontier waters of Southern Alaska.

Raban sails under literary colours, decoding the beguiling waters of the so-called "Inside Passage", from the many perspectives of those who've sailed there. Roughly following the course first charted by the beleaguered Captain Vancouver in the late 18th century, on a mission of discovery for George III, Raban contrasts the European relationship with these grey waters, with the strange, animistic attitudes of the native tribes they found living on the shoreline. The frenetic scrambles of present-day fisherman provide him with further mental tobacco to chew on.

Indeed, he glides effortlessly between neat social brushstrokes, anthropology and history. Passage To Juneau throws up both fascinating flotsam (such as the origins of the word "nookie") and genuinely startling observations - Raban, for instance, is coolly sceptical about the romanticised portrayal of Native Americans. He is quick to remind that it is virtually impossible to verify what true Native American beliefs were like, because they have become hopelessly intermingled with and buffeted by our own.

Though he cuts efficiently through this shrouded cultural fogbank he is soon overwhelmed on other frontiers. Anthropologists have apparently stressed the parallel in the North-Western Indian myths between the turbulence and malice of the sea and fear of upheavals in domestic life. Raban seems to soak up a little too much of the ambience: while out on his voyage, his father dies in England and that's not all malevolent sea deities have in store for his family life.

Does he weather the storm? It's left unsaid and Raban, rarely openly emotional, seems to give us the romantic notion of the "sublime" as the one which best lends his voyage a meaning: chaotic, helpless, sometimes terrifying. He returns to his fractured family in Seattle, making it clear in the final pages that he's about to embark on the real journey, and one without a map. Raban's next book may contain some seriously craggy emotional landscapes: beware.

You can reach Koh Samui about an hour away by air from Bangkok (about £100), or by train (from Phun Phin) and ferry (from Surat Thani). There are meditation retreats and health resorts all over Thailand. If it's a smaller island you want, check out the Sanctuary on Koh Phangan (only accessible by boat) or Skyros' Holidays on Ko Samet.

Materials of this article can be very useful to school teachers of the literature.

Source: EzineArticles
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