Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

by William Finnegan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143109396
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/26/2016
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 30,239
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

WILLIAM FINNEGAN is the author of Cold New World, A Complicated War, Dateline Soweto, and Crossing the Line. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt

From Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © William Finnegan, 2015.
At the post office in Nuku’alofa, I tried to send my father a telegram. It was 1978, his fiftieth birthday. But I couldn’t tell if the message actually went through. Did anyone back home even know what country we were in?

I wandered down a road of half-built cinderblock houses. There was a strange, philosophical graffito: ALL OUTER PROGRESS PRODUCE CRIMINAL. I passed a graveyard. In the cemeteries in Tonga, late in the day, there always seemed to be old women tending the graves of their parents—combing the coral-sand mounds into the proper coffin-top shape, sweeping away leaves, hand washing faded wreaths of plastic flowers, rearranging the haunting patterns of tropical peppercorns, orange and green on bleached white sand.

A shiver of secondhand sorrow ran through me. And an ache of something else. It wasn’t exactly homesickness. It felt like I had sailed off the edge of the known world. That part was actually fine with me. The world was mapped in so many different ways. For worldly Americans, the whole globe was covered by the foreign bureaus of the better newspapers. But the truth was, we were wandering now through a world that would never be part of any correspondent’s beat. It was full of news, but all of it was oblique, mysterious, important only if you listened and watched and felt its weight.

On the ferry here, I had ridden on the roof with three boys who said they planned to see every kung-fu and cowboy and cop movie playing at the three cinemas in Nuku’alofa until their money ran out. One boy, thin and laughing and fourteen, told me that he had quit school because he was “lazy.” He had a Japanese comic book that got passed around the ferry roof. The book was a bizarre mashup: cutesy children’s cartoons, hairy-armed war stories, nurse-and-doctor soap opera, graphic pornography. A ferry crewman frowned when he got to the porn, tore each page out, crumpled it, and threw it in the sea. The boys laughed. Finally, with a great bark of disgust, the sailor threw the whole book in the water, and the boys laughed harder. I watched the tattered pages float away in a glassy lagoon. I closed my eyes. I felt the weight of unmapped worlds, unborn language. I knew I was chasing something more than waves.

So the sadness of the obscure graveyard, of unforgotten elders buried under sand made my chest tight. It seemed to mock this whole vague childish enterprise.

Still, something beckoned. Maybe it was Fiji.

Table of Contents

1 Off Diamond Head: Honolulu, 1966-67 1

2 Smell the Ocean: California, ca. 1956-65 59

3 The Shock of the New: California, 1968 85

4 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky: Maui, 1971 105

5 The Search: The South Pacific, 1978 147

6 The Lucky Country: Australia, 1978-79 209

7 Choosing Ethiopia: Asia, Africa, 1979-81 237

8 Against Dereliction: San Francisco, 1983-86 277

9 Basso Profundo: Madeira, 1994-2003 351

10 The Mountains Fall into the Heart of the Sea: New York City, 2002-15 409

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Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for surfers and those who want insight into the mind of a surfer. More so, this is a great book about life in general. We see the intimacies of the author's life poured out across the pages. Sometimes seeing what makes other's "tick" teaches us a lot about ourselves, for better or worse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a surfer, I totally enjoyed this book. The author has surfed many great breaks and eloquently describes them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the travel through life - living the adventure and the emotional growth. Beautifully retrospective while embracing life lived well.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
This book started off great and really takes the reader through a bit of surfing history, the author’s life and his thought process on surfing and life in general. For about 80% of the book I found it engaging, interesting and really enjoyed being along for that wave. By the time his travels brought him east though I found the story less interesting and more mundane, focusing on his aging and physical abilities rather than his travels. Overall it’s a great read if you like to surf or love to travel. It’s eye opening and illuminating to see the world through the author’s point of view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An engaging and well written story of a guy's attempt to balance his life ambition (dicovering cultural and societal intricacies in the US and around the world and writing about it) with the passion and adventure of a surfer's quest to find the perfect wave and explain the magic that drives a surfer's life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a soul surfer you can really identify w this book. Finnegan weaves a travelog and lifestyle well. Not a typical surf book at all. I wish it was longer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fabulous book in every way. Brilliantly and sensitively written. A must read for both surfers and non- surfers. The best memoir I've read in decades.