Cover image for A Republic of rivers : three centuries of nature writing from Alaska and the Yukon
A Republic of rivers : three centuries of nature writing from Alaska and the Yukon
Murray, John A., 1954-
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
xv, 325 pages 18 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH105.A4 R46 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"The spell of Alaska," Ella Higginson wrote in 1908, "falls upon every lover of beauty who has voyaged along those far northern snow-pearled shores...or who has drifted down the mighty rivers of the interior which flow, bell-toned and lonely, to the sea.... No writer has ever described Alaska; no one writer ever will; but each must do his share, according to the spell that the country casts upon him."
In A Republic of Rivers, John Murray offers the first comprehensive anthology of nature writing in Alaska and the Yukon, ranging from 1741 to the present. Many of the writers found here are major figures--John Muir, Jack London, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez, and Edward Abbey--but we also discover the voices of missionaries, explorers, mountain-climbers, Native Americans, miners, scientists, backpackers, and fishermen, each trying to capture something of the beauty of this still pristine land, to render in their own words the spell that the country casts upon them. The range of viewpoints is remarkable. With Annie Dillard we look out at ice floes near the remote Barter Island and see "what newborn babies must see: nothing but senseless variations of light on the retinas." With Frederick Litke we mourn the senseless slaughter of sea mammals. We join scientist Adolph Murie, the father of wolf ecology, as he probes the daily life of an East Fork wolf pack. And we listen as Tlingit Indian Johnny Jack relates the difficulty of maintaining a dignified life close to nature at a time of cultural upheaval for his people. Most of these selections have never appeared in any anthology and some entries--particularly those written by early American and Russian explorers--have never been available to general readers.
There is laughter here and there is sorrow, but finally there is communion and liberation as generation after generation encounter the unsurpassed beauty and wildness of the Arctic. Taken together, these forty-nine men and women provide a unique portrait of America's final frontier.

Author Notes

About the Editor
John A. Murray is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Alaska's shimmering and brave beauty has always aroused passion that begged for articulation. Here, for the first time, is a collection of writings about Alaska from diverse viewpoints and times. Murray has organized 49 brief excerpts chronologically, beginning with the 1741 Bering expedition and working through the years of the gold rush and exploitation of Alaska's natural resources to Alaska's statehood and the era of environmentalism. Many names will be familiar--Captain James Cook, Jack London, John Muir, John Burroughs, Adolph Murie (the "father of wolf ecology"), Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez--but others will be new, introducing readers to fresh perspectives. Murray's introduction provides a strong structure, analyzing the quests that brought people to Alaska and the Yukon. His opening statement holds true: "To read any or all of these selections is to experience at once a liberation and a communion." Further reading suggested; to be indexed. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

Murray has produced an exceptional compendium of nature writing about Alaska, a total of 48 selections. It is arranged in chronological order from 1741 to 1989 and includes such well-known authors as John Muir, Jack London, and Barry Lopez. The writing encompasses geographical descriptions and animal accounts, as well as human encounters with the environment and themselves. This remarkable collection of stories will be a good purchase for public libraries with a need for a collection of stories about this region.-- Mary J. Nickum, Fish and Wildlife Reference Svc., Bethesda, Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.