Coldman Cometh: A Family's Adventure in the Alaska Bush

Coldman Cometh: A Family's Adventure in the Alaska Bush

by Bob Durr
     
 

Bob Durr's first book about his adventures in Alaska was published in 1999 (Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier). In a sense, that book was prelude to this, because while it touched upon his reasons for undertaking the risky business of "proving up" as a commercial salmon fisherman, it didn't

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Overview

Bob Durr's first book about his adventures in Alaska was published in 1999 (Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier). In a sense, that book was prelude to this, because while it touched upon his reasons for undertaking the risky business of "proving up" as a commercial salmon fisherman, it didn't delve deeply into the underlying reasons why he wanted, ultimately, to leave the civilized world altogether.

The Coldman Cometh tells the whole story—the "family saga"—of how and why Bob, who was a tenured full professor of English at Syracuse University, resigned in 1968 from his comfortable position and with his wife and four kids journeyed north into the Alaska bush. It's a tale of adventure, of perils, hardships, trials, and triumphs involving close encounters with bears, charging moose, stormy waters, and—probably most dangerous of all—the severe subzero temperatures the Durrs came to call the "Coldman," he of the deadly embrace. The story of those tough, thrilling early years of settling in is told in vivid detail and living color, and with a good deal of humor as well.

"What is life for?" Bob asks. "To be safe and a little fat and own nice things? What about the Great Mystery, and what about the wolves?"

The Coldman Cometh is not only a memoir of an adventurous quest but an in-depth report of a radical experiment in alternative living. It's a beautiful—and harrowing—account of dropping out of the mainstream: of the smell of pine pitch and roar of a bull moose and the "whys" of the fabulous journey. Ultimately, it's a commentary on society that can only be given by a writer who has so nearly left it.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Enthusiastic memoir of a man and his family living on their own terms in wild patches of Alaska. In a prequel (Down in Bristol Bay, 1999), Durr recounted his experiences as a commercial fisherman on Alaska's not-always-kind waters back in the early '60s, when he was a tenured professor of English at Syracuse University with a serious, inchoate yearning for a more natural and elemental life. He got it, and he got even more when he decided to move his family to Alaska to escape the psychobabble and commercialism of the Lower 48. "What price Convenience? (In America, Convenience is always capitalized, like God.) What does it profit a man to gain a shower and lose a wilderness?" he asks. Point made, Durr doesn't revert to it too often-only when he is swelling with the fullness of his new homeplace and has to shake his head ruefully over what has been forsaken. His adopted turf presents plenty of challenges, from getting meat for the table to keeping warm at 50-below. Some predicaments require bush-country ingenuity (or death), but others are more mundane, such as scaring up enough capital to pay for provisions he can't obtain any other way or reconciling himself to the use of a chainsaw and a snowmobile. These conflicts are communicated in a relaxed, deliberate voice that feels swept of stress, easy of mind: Durr is where he wants to be, doing what he wants as well as what he thinks is right (without being righteous). He recounts finding a cove full of Japanese glass buoys washed onto the beach, the building of a compound for his family, the night silence of a still cabin when you rise to feed the fire. He recalls the sauna that got out of control and burned down his house, then describes therebuilding; he's not going anywhere. As unadorned as the life described, aboriginal and rejoicing. (Photos)Agency: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312311797
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
07/01/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.14(d)

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