April 24, 2009
A Book Worth Reading: The Alaska Chronicles
By Kirk Deeter
A fly fishing memoir is a tough thing to pull off. In my mind, "been there, done that," isn't good enough. "Me and Bob went fishing"... yawn. "How I learned to solve the mysteries of the universe while I caught trout"... give me a break.
In other words, I often pick up these books, and within 10 pages, I'm usually thinking to myself, "Get real!"
Whoa, wait a minute... there's a thought. Get real...
That's what Miles Nolte did with his compelling and gritty work in The Alaska Chronicles, published by Departure ($27.50). The work is a collection of semi-daily reports (initially posted on the message board of The Drake magazine website) from a summer spent guiding in Alaska. In effect, it became a collective "being here, doing this" experience... a thread that connected over 3,000 online message board readers from Singapore to Germany.
The writing appeals to me by virtue of its honesty and simplicity. Sure, you get the fish stories, but you also get the client grind, the cold hamburgers, bloodied body, fatigue, bears... essentially the stuff that separates the pretenders from the contenders in the guide world, and ultimately makes the real Alaska experience come alive. The book is more than worth reading for its candor alone, and the visual images that spin out of that.
For the record, I also find it interesting that the project is a website-to-book phenomenon, the first I know of of this type. The lesson? People can argue all they want about media trends, the death of print, whether long-form writing can work online, blog writing being "open mic nite," and all that... what I see here is that substance transcends. Online, in print... where there is substance there is value. I have long believed that the real substance in the fly fishing world inevitably lives amongst the guides. And there is plenty of all that in The Alaska Chronicles. Check it out.