With the same rigorous observation (natural and social), invigorating stylishness, and encyclopedic learning that he brought to his National Book Award-winning Bad Land, Jonathan Raban conducts readers along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau. The physical distance is 1,000 miles of difficult-and often treacherous-water, which Raban navigates solo in a 35-foot sailboat.
But Passage to Juneau also traverses a gulf of centuries and cultures: the immeasurable divide between the Northwest's Indians and its first European explorers-- between its embattled fishermen and loggers and its pampered new class. Along the way, Raban offers captivating discourses on art, philosophy, and navigation and an unsparing narrative of personal loss.
Raban's purring English accent, playful imitations and knowing intonations perfectly nuance this pared-down version of his acclaimed tale of sailing alone from Seattle to Juneau. His journey through a sea punctuated by the "skittish humor of whirlpools" and colored by "fifty shades of grey" is nicely paralleled with the same journey taken by others before him, including Captain Vancouver's own dour explorations in the 1790s. Throughout, Raban is an inventive reader, creating many voices for the characters that people his tale; his nasal whine for the sickly, uptight Vancouver is hilarious. This playfulness gently contrasts to his more thoughtful, meditative passages, which encompass Raban's awe of the landscape and considerations of his own life and the small communities that cling to the rocky edges of the Inside Passage from Washington to Alaska. Vintage trade paperback released in October.