Bangs, Richard and Christian Kallen. Rivergods: Exploring the World’s Great Wild Rivers. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985.

Reason read: June is National River Cleanup Month.

Rivergods balances adventurous text from Bangs and Kallen with gorgeous photography. Christian Kallen and Richard Bangs bring many of the most powerful, yet mostly unheard of, rivers to life as they describe trying to raft or kayak each one. By traveling all corners of the globe, they are able to meet indigenous peoples in South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. By studying their anthropologies, they learn a little about each culture including head hunting and cannibalism. Each river teaches them about the power of Mother Nature and the real dangers of trying to tame her.
As an aside, when I started running with Dr. Tommy Rivs, one of the things he taught me early on was about Islamic religion. In accordance with the beliefs of Islam, no humans or animals can be portrayed or duplicated by man. All art such as tile work, tapestries, and carpets must be of geometric shapes and flowers. It was cool to see Bangs and Kallen talk about it in Rivergods.

Lines to like, “It was like trying to admire a beautiful painting after having been mugged” (p 108). I wish I could quote all of the reviews from the back cover of Rivergods. Admiration, humor, and maybe a little envy are evident in the reviewer’s words.

Author fact: Richard Bangs has a pretty cool website here. Christian Kallen coauthored another book with Bangs called Riding the Dragon’s Back.

Book trivia: Rivergods is oversized and full of gorgeous photography.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rivergods.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 252).

Grand Ambition

Michaels, Lisa. Grand Ambition. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2001.

The year is 1928. America is spellbound by adventurous feats like the one of Charles Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight. Amelia Earhart is in the news with her own daring flight. It’s only natural that a man by the name of Glen Hyde, interested in running whitewater, would want to set some records of his own.

Grand Ambition starts with the first person narrative of Reith Hyde, father of Glen Hyde. Reith sets the ominous tone and the sense of foreboding. Keeping track of his son and new wife’s progress down the rapids of the Colorado River he knows they are late reaching their next point. Surely, something is wrong…
Glen, 30 and Bessie Hyde, 23 are a true life ambitious and adventurous newlywed couple who dared to go down the rapids of the Grand Canyon in a homemade boat in late 1928. Glen, an experienced boater, wanted to be the fastest man to complete the journey. Bessie was romanced by the idea of being the first woman to do the same even though she was a novice. They were almost at the end when something went horribly wrong and they were never heard from again. Lisa Michaels takes to task telling their heroic story, imagining what they went though and their ultimate demise. Interspersed between the adventure is the personal history of Bessie and how she came to meet Glen, fall in love with him and find herself boating down the rapids of the Colorado River. On the other side of the story is the search for Glen and Bessie. Glen’s desperate father, Reith, will stop at nothing to find his son.

As I was reading this I couldn’t help but think of my friend and the book he wrote about his own adventure down in the Grand Canyon. I wondered if he saw the same rock formations, the same rapids untouched by time.

Lines to remember, “…she had been a brief accident of his early twenties made into holy law…” (p 21), “Death didn’t miss you because you stood still” (p 44), and “Love is another country” (p 195).

Reason read: June is adventure month. Knowing this always makes me feel like I should be living an adventure, not reading about one.

Author fact: Grand Ambition is Michael’s debut novel.

Book trivia: I could see this being a really cool movie, but it’s not.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Adventure By The Book: Fiction” (p 7). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 31). As an aside, Grand Ambition is indexed as just Ambition in Book Lust To Go.

In the Heart of the Canyon

Hyde, Elisabeth. In the Heart of the Canyon. Westminster, MD: Books on Tape, 2009.

In the Heart of the Canyon is an accurate portrayal of a thirteen day river trip down the Grand Canyon; so much so that I felt I could have been there. Hyde effectively describes the guides, the tourists, the scenery, and of course, the Colorado River picture perfect. The character development of everyone involved in the trip builds just  as if you were in the boats with them, getting to know them as the days and miles pass by. The weather (and how to deal with the heat) and surrounding nature comes alive with Hyde’s words.  And when it comes to rafting down the river you can tell Hyde has seen rapids and even had a “maytag” experience or two. She puts you right in the action. A story about a rafting trip down the Colorado would be enough material for a book but Hyde takes it a step further by introducing a stray dog early in the story and creating characters that are not only interesting but complex. One character in particular, seventeen year old Amy keeps a journal. Her journal gives the events described by Hyde a new perspective. She introduces a different point of view and her comments serve as a reminder that everyone has an alternate truth based on their own unique personality. It’s what happens when you put twelve strangers and three guides together.

As an aside about the guides, I am around these kinds of people all the time. I can picture them perfectly. Tanned, well-built, confident and sure-footed moving in and around the boats. Congenial and comfortable. They give off an air of relaxed attitude but in the back of their minds they know everything about the trip is in their hands. Safety and fun.

Reason read: John Muir was born in April. Being a naturalist I thought it would be appropriate to read something that takes place 100% outdoors.

Author fact: According to Hyde, In the Heart of the Canyon came about when she was on a rafting trip and got “maytagged.”

Book trivia: In the Heart of the Canyon has a YouTube trailer. It makes the book out to be more of a dramatic thriller than it is.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 31).

June (2009) was…

June was an amazingly quiet yet unsettling month. I think I needed it –  all of it. I know I wanted it – depression and all. Lots and lots of reading married with work on the house (we started painting!), a lot of work at work, a little music (Rebecca’s cd release party was fun, fun, fun! Can’t wait for the Iron Horse next month!), a small charity walk (Hike for Mike, which I still need to write about)…June was mostly about staying hermitage.
Here are the books:

  • Slow Dancing on Dinosaur Bones by Lana Witt ~ an interesting book about small town life.
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts ~ the most amazing journalism on the AIDS epidemic
  • Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum ~ a murder thriller set in Norway
  • Before the Deluge by Deidre Chethem ~ a nonfiction about the Yangtze river
  • Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance by Richard Powers ~ three stories centered around a photograph.
  • A Bigamist’s Daughter by Alice McDermott ~ In honor of Alice’s birth month…a story about how things aren’t always what they seem.
  • The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun ~ In honor of National Cat Month…okay, so the cats don’t solve the mystery, but they are funny!
  • The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan ~ in honor of McEwan’s birth month (childrens book)
  • The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan~ In honor of McEwan’s birth month (adult – verrry adult book)!
  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff~ in honor of National Writing Month (families). I’ll be reading Tobias’s brother’s memoir next June.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain ~ I had forgotten how great this classic is!
  • Lving High: an Unconventional Autobiography by June Burn ~ Homesteading on an island off Puget Sound.

For the Early Review Program:

  • Beyond Road’s End: Living Free in Alaska by Janice Schofield Eaton ~ a memoir abotu running away to Alaska.

For the fun of it:

  • The Morning Star in Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated by Nick Bantock. Everyone knows I love Nick Bantock. His books are sensual and fascinating. I am drawn to them all the time.

Last River

Balf, Todd. Last River: the tragic race for Shangri-La. New York: Crowne Publishers, 2000.

This just came in for me. Not only is this a BookLust mention, but Todd Balf is a Massachusetts man. I’m curious about this (nonfictional) story because I have a near & dear friend who does the whitewater thing. When I’m not worried about him cracking his skull open, I’m proud of him.

EDIT: I’m still reading Here First so River will just have to wait. 11/21/06

11/23/06: I gave up on Here First so I could jump into Last River.
11/25/06: Wanna hear something weird? Back when I first ordered Last River I said I was curious about the story because I have a friend who kayaks. I’m 60 pages into it and already Balf has mentioned HACKS, which my friend is a member (okay, president), and Falls River where my friend lives AND the very house my friend lives in. It doesn’t take much to excite me. I know I won’t see his name in this print, but it thrills me to know I’m delving into his world.

11/27/06: I finished Last River. Once I really started reading I couldn’t put it down. Was it the sense of imminent doom? I did know someone would die tragically. Balf was clever never to let on who would meet his doom on that monstrous river. I think that was part of it, but I think it was more out of fascination for Balf’s respect for the Tsangpo Gorge and everything that went with the October 1998 expedition. I have a deep rooted respect for the places I’ll never see, the things I’ll never do and the dangers I’ll never comprehend. This book opened my eyes to a different way of life: a life challenged and driven and obsessed by whitewater. In the end, I think I understand my friend a little better too.

Booklust Twist: Categorized as “Adventure By the Book” the kayakers are called, “gung-ho”, (Book Lust, p.8).