The 50 individuals profiled in this delightful collection all were interviewed by Isay on his National Public Radio series The American Folklife Radio Project. Most of his subjects are older people who are dreamers, devoting themselves to such pursuits as creating religious grottoes, castles, bells and centers for dinosaur sculptures; conducting businesses, such as opera houses or bars, in ghost towns; or following unusual careers, for example, marriage brokering and restoring mannequins. There are those whose lifework has not been exotic, such as a country doctor who still charges a dollar for an office visit, a hat blocker and a sheepherder, and those who have followed bizarre paths, including a serpent-handling minister and the overseer of a coon-dog graveyard. But Isay approaches them all open-mindedly and sympathetically, and his warm commentary is supplemented by Wang's superb photos. A joy to read. Appendix. (Dec.)
There are those who fear that today's urbanized, computerized society is stripping us of our individualism, that we will all ultimately exhibit the sameness of fast-food hamburgers. They should read Holding On and take heart. Basing their short portraits on National Public Radio interviews, public radio producer Isay and photographer Wang introduce 50 die-hard individualists. An 88-year-old Hopi religious leader fights to keep electricity and running water out of his village; a compulsive diarist is at 34,263,395 words and climbing; a retired stripper guides guests through her burlesque museum; a Colorado man constructs a medieval castle; a country doctor still charges a dollar for an office visit, two for a house call. Fun, and recommended.-Jim Burns, Ottumwa, Ia.
Is the flurry of recent books that are in some way connected with U.S. public broadcasting--both audio and video varieties--a coincidence or smart public relations in the face of the GOP's drive to privatize the public airwaves? Whichever it may be, fans of National Public Radio and others who prefer the quirkiness of ordinary people to the overhyped exotica of tabloid tattle will love Wang and Isay's portraits of several dozen "men and women in pursuit of "something", and holding on to that at all costs." Isay, producer of NPR's American Folklife Radio Project, supplies brief introductions and interviews; Wang (creator of "Harvey Wang's New York", 1990) provides vivid photos of the book's people and places. The authors feature hoboes and hat blockers, healers and serpent handlers, as well as the operators of some of the oddest tourist attractions on the face of the earth. A satisfying celebration of a fascinating collection of American originals.