Sunday, September 16, 2012

"Alaskan Travels" by Edward Hoagland

Alaskan Travels by Edward Hoagland was written as a sort of travelogue of the time Hoagland spent in the Alaska some 30 years ago while in his early 50s and had at times hard to follow writing, but that was on a topic of interest.

In the book, Hoagland recounts stories of both time spent in Anchorage as well as off the beaten path in other areas of the state. From interviews conducted in Anchorage, Hoagland recounts the stories of business leaders and developers such as Bob Penny, Bob Uchitel, Larry Carr and Pete Zamarello.

Outside of the state's (by far) largest city is where the majority of the book is focused, though, with Hoagland and his travelling companion health care professional going to some of the more remote areas where she would diagnose, catalog and care for tuberculosis. It’s noted in the book that were some 100 cases of TB statewide, but with the remoteness of the places they travelled to, Hoagland’s companion often because the default general care provider and the two of them as white people were very much minorities in many places visited.

It was interesting reading of people Hoagland came across living their lives different than most (at least different than most living in a City environment) and his depiction of the changes in lives and culture pretty compelling. In many areas jobs and industry hadn’t really come, but what had were the trappings of modern life in the form of television and alcohol. For younger villagers, this exposure to modern life was oftentimes causing them to go away from subsistence living and Hoagland had an interesting anecdote of older Eskimos often being the buyers at fur sales because the young people don't deal with that sort of thing anymore.

Definitely some interesting content in the book, but some of the areas were not so compelling and the difficulty I had following certain sections made me think favorably back on some of the other books I’ve read on Alaska and enjoyed more… with fiction efforts being Journey by James Michener and Call of the Wild by Jack London and an excellent nonfiction book Looking for Alaska by Peter Jenkins.