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Reviews The Starship and the Canoe. By Kenneth Brower. (New York: Holt, Rine­ hart and Winston, 1978. 260 pages, $8.95.) This book is difficult to characterize. It is not a biography, yet it is biographical; it is not a “nature” book, yet it gives a vivid sense of the coast of Alaska and British Columbia; it is not a history of science and technology, yet it gives fascinating insights into the early days of nuclear technology and the American space program. This book is a series of bio­ graphical segments from the lives of two men, father and son, Freeman and George Dyson, and their apparently radically diverging ways of life. Yet just as we are wondering why we should care about these men, we begin to see that they illustrate a basic tension in modem life. Freeman Dyson, the father, is a distinguished mathematician and phy­ sicist, a man who literally wants to travel to the stars and has helped design spacecraft to go there. He believes the survival of humanity will require space colonization. He thinks on a large scale, visualizing, for example, massive spacecraft propelled by exploding hydrogen bombs. George Dyson, the son, on the other hand, might be called a “drop­ out,” but he has only dropped out of a pattern. He has not dropped out of an alert and vivid life. He lives in a hut 95 feet up in a Douglas fir tree on the coast of British Columbia. While his father frequents university cam­ puses, institutes for advanced research, and prestigious think tanks, George earns what money he needs as a crewman on coastwise vessels, as a wil­ derness and inner passage guide, as a camp cook, or in whatever offers and is congenial. While Freeman is fascinated by the stars, George is fas­ cinated by the less populated places of this earth. The crafts he designs and builds in his quest for survival are kayaks. This book is low key, and its effect is cumulative, but the persistent reader will be rewarded. As an established conservationist and nature writer, Brower might be expected to slant his presentation in favor of the canoe builder and against the designer of hydrogen bomb propulsion. He does spend more time with George, but he gives us sympathetic insight into both. As the book progresses and we begin to understand each, we realize 176 Western American Literature that what had appeared a radical divergence is really only a question of style and of medium of exploration. The quest of the son is basically very like the quest of the father. Both are trying to learn more about “nature” and our relationship with it. The rational materialist and the romantic are but two sides of the same coin, after all, and toward the end of the book they are taking the first steps toward understanding one another. Although Brower refrains from making broad social extrapolations from the Dysons, one hopes this move toward understanding will prove a prophecy. This is a book the reader will remember. It is a book worth reading. PAUL T. BRYANT, Colorado State University Jack London: Essays in Criticism. Edited by Ray Wilson Ownbey. (Santa Barbara, CA: Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1978. 126 pages, $4.95.) Peregrine Smith, an excellent small publisher, has been interested in Jack London studies for some time, having issued very fine editions of London’s The Road and, in two volumes, The Valley of the Moon. By bringing out this significant collection of critical essays, ably edited by an English professor at the University of Maine, Peregrine Smith has added an entirely new dimension to the London revival — one long awaited. Ownbey’s is the first book-length collection of critical essays on Jack London’s extraordinarily diverse output. Ownbey’s selections represent a solid cross-section of the best London scholars around today: the late King Hendricks on London’s short story craftsmanship; Earle Labor on “Jack London’s Symbolic Wilderness”; James I. McClintock on London’s use of Jung’s Psychology of the Unconscious; Clarice Stasz, biographer of Charmian London, on “Androgyny in the Novels of Jack London”; Sam Baskett’s memorable essay on “Jack Lon­ don...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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