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Red Summer: The Danger and Madness of Commercial Salmon Fishing in Alaska is a vivid memoir of Bill Carter's four summers spent in grueling and exhilaratingly hard work as a commercial salmon fisherman in a remote Eskimo village in Alaska on the shores of Bristol Bay, that provides indelible portraits of the rugged individuals who are drawn to this work, particularly his crew-boss Sharon, who lives by the credo: do the work or leave. Certain to appeal to adventurers, environmentalists and armchair travelers, in ...
Red Summer: The Danger and Madness of Commercial Salmon Fishing in Alaska is a vivid memoir of Bill Carter's four summers spent in grueling and exhilaratingly hard work as a commercial salmon fisherman in a remote Eskimo village in Alaska on the shores of Bristol Bay, that provides indelible portraits of the rugged individuals who are drawn to this work, particularly his crew-boss Sharon, who lives by the credo: do the work or leave. Certain to appeal to adventurers, environmentalists and armchair travelers, in the tradition of Jon Krakauer, Peter Matthiessen and Sebastian Junger, this is an honest and impassioned account of what it means to leave so-called civilization behind for a life on the extreme edge, full of danger, excitement and untold beauty.
Sharon Hart 27
The Flats 39
Twenty-eight Thousand Pounds 55
Fishermen Blues 62
Malibu Marty 70
Bush Radio 79
How Was Your Winter? 87
I've Been Here Before 96
The Food Chain 107
The Last Frontier 116
The Mayor 123
Too Many Fish 134
Church Hill 147
Seeing Native 159
Fish and Game 176
Becharof Lodge 185
The Last Season 207
Paddling Home 224
Posted April 22, 2012
I oscillated between being fascinated and wondering why anyone would do this sort or work, especially if the money isn't good any more. Then I wondered why anybody would write a book about this sort of work.
Here's what reeled me in. First off, I appreciated the author's need to commune with open, rugged wilderness. His general outlook is that it's spiritually healthy to be in an environment where people are animals trying to survive like all other animals, which I find wise and necessary. It puts one in his/her historical place, one more out of respect than domination. The work is incredibly dangerous, especially considering the water is usually too cold and powerful to consider swimming to shore as anything but a last, desperate resort. Like many an excellent travel writer (Ryszard Kapu¿ci¿ski, etc.), Carter is simply a guy who survived, humbled to be telling the story.
His take on the many Native Americans is another interesting tributary. He has a compelling bit about how tied they are to the tides, how they can feel what the water is doing without needing to broadcast their expertise. He talks about meeting a Native (Kevin), who finally reveals he knew Carter when Carter worked in a Alaskan cannery, years & years ago. That experience is seminal in a trail of developments documented in Carter's phenomenal book "Fools Rush In". That it took so many conversations with Kevin to learn this news leads to a fascinating realization by Carter:
"When [Native Americans are] speaking, they often delay their response to a question, maybe ten seconds, a minute, or an hour. The effect of the delay can make them seem thoughtful and pensive. That may be true of some, but over the years I've come to realize that they just have a different sense of time. Or, said another way, Native Americans, unlike the people of more modern cultures, don't believe talking is the same thing as thinking."
As I've come to expect with Carter, the writing style is honest, conversational. Whiz-through-able.
While at first I didn't understand why Carter seems a little distant from all of the people he writes about (it's journalistic, but in a good way), I did respect and like this by the end of the book. The greater point is that people work in the fishing industry or live in Alaska because they want it to be their little 'oasis' away from it all. The unforgiving climate is the ultimate opportunity for alone time - even a writer like Carter can't stay through the winter.
I recommend this book to travel readers of any sort or people considering the nothing-like-it adventure of working in Alaska over the summer.