Maritime Professor John R. Stilgoe Alongshore

ISBN 13: 9780300060171

Alongshore

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9780300060171: Alongshore

Along the shore are fishing boats and lighthouses, wharves and piers, resorts and shipwrecks - picturesque vistas that are visited and photographed but have never before been scrutinized from a historical or cultural perspective. In this enchanting book, John R. Stilgoe takes us on a tour of the seacoast, evoking its sights, sounds, and textures, and showing how it illuminates issues of landscape and of American culture. Drawing on sources as diverse as Thoreau and Kate Chopin, agricultural newspapers and the Hardy Boys, and always emphasizing his own hikes and small-boat passages along the coast, Stilgoe provides a guidebook for anyone intrigued by the seacoast, "the last place in which adult Americans walk barefoot." He describes guzzles (configurations of sand), gunkholes (unfrequented harbors), and loomings (optical phenomena on the horizon). He explains why watchtowers stand guard all along the Atlantic coast; why wharves are perennially decaying; the different ways that pirates have been perceived through the centuries; and why local women of the shore towns wear bikinis. Like the sea itself, Stilgoe's Alongshore invigorates and exhilarates, drawing us back to its pleasures again and again.

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About the Author:

John R. Stilgoe is Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape at Harvard University.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Stilgoe (who teaches history of landscape at Harvard) brings to seashores the same mystique, erudition, and pleasure he applied to railroads in Metropolitan Corridor (1983). His charming, informative, profusely illustrated tour of the northeastern shoreline--beaches, marshes, dunes, wharves, lighthouses, harbors, boats, inhabitants and their social conventions--appears in time for summer holidays. Indeed, the volume offers a summer holiday itself with its lyrical descriptions of the wonder and allure of the seashore; the taste, smell, texture of this special place between low tide and high; the forces of nature that shape and repossess it; the seasons, history, and attitudes it fosters. Stilgoe provides an array of information, anecdote, and fantasy, as well as answering some puzzling questions--such as why a man taking pictures on the beach is considered a violator of the unspoken etiquette developed by shore people (as opposed to tourists). He explains how salt marshes are formed and how culture impinges on them, how marshes are dissected by railroads and bridges, how fiberglass boats have turned yards where the wooden boats wintered and were refitted into condominium developments, why wharves have criminal associations and are eaten by small sea creatures that no one wants to study. A chapter on treasures turns into a history of pirates--real and imaginary--and their place in the ``American maritime psyche.'' He similarly juxtaposes reality with perception in a chapter on quaintness, or how what was poverty to the natives is being preserved by historical societies and rediscovered by affluent moderns who can afford to live in what they think is a natural way. Reflecting on bikinis, he considers how human beings interact with nature, how ocean ``bathing'' in the 19th century became ``swimming,'' and how that change generated the whole vacation culture. Eloquent, personable, absorbing, a book to read while the seasons are changing and the tide is turning. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Stilgoe, Professor John R.
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