Barbarian Days

Barbarian Days

A Surfing Life

eBook - 2014
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A deeply-rendered self-portrait of a life-long surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker journalist Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, of a complex enchantment. Surfing looks like a sport, but that's only to outsiders. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses'off the coasts of New York and San Francisco'and dramatizes the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves. Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer, and of a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly'he drops acid while riding huge Honolua Bay on Maui'is served with rueful humor. Their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, he and a buddy bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji one of the world's greatest waves. As Finnegan's travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity. Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of a novice's gradual mastering of a demanding, little-understood art. Today, Finnegan's surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.
Publisher: New York : The Penguin Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780698163744
0698163745
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Call Number: eBook

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o
otaycec
Aug 16, 2017

Clearly the best surfing odyssey written to date. Finnegan is a very fine writer, and a well-read writer. There are some highly educated surfers around the world, and I am heartened that someone with a literary cast of mind finally decided to tell his tale in well articulated prose, at times invigorating, even beautiful. I also enjoyed the fact that the story is not filled with drug-crazed adventures punctuated by titillating sexual exploits that so often mar much of the surfing opus. Since I am the same age as the author, I could fully identify with much of the culture in which he found himself, especially the California surf culture in which I played a very nominal role, but fondly remembered. I've also visited many of the places mentioned in Finnegan's adventures, which added to the thrill of reliving a surfing life, though mine did not last as long as Finnegan's. The writing is so good that even non-surfers will find much to enjoy here. It's a great ride.

t
tw444
Jul 01, 2017

If you're not a surfer, may be a bit too technical. Lots of wave talk.

j
jezicuhh
Jun 06, 2017

I couldn't get into it... I really tried, got all the way to chapter six. I think the author has so much to share about his experiences that it got lost in translation a bit. I am also going to agree with the comment below, and say this is more a man's book. I am a 23 year old female and although I appreciated the superb writing, I couldn't stay with or follow the story.

n
njon38
Mar 26, 2017

Won the Pulitzer, a memoir of an obsessive surfer who traveled the world looking for that perfect wave. He is about my age so following the political landscape of his life was interesting but this is really a man's book.

t
tongatim
Nov 10, 2016

Interesting and well-written account of the life of a die-hard surfer. Having lived and surfed in the same era, there was much to relate to, and much more of interest to those of us who veered away from the surfing life as we took more conventional paths, often wondering---and sometimes dreaming---what life would have been life if we instead took off on that lifelong surfing safari. Finnegan lets us share the journey of a the hard core surfbum.

Drags in places, but otherwise compelling.

d
danielestes
Nov 02, 2016

Let me first say that you don't need an inkling of interest in or knowledge of surfing to love this book. Bill Finnegan covers the basics for all the novices out there. For example, there's a terrific little aside early on where he explains the physics of how waves are created. It's short and sweet and then it's back to the story. Anything more advanced, such as the various techniques used and what they're called, is filtered through the context of the author's life and is easily relatable. The language of growing up is a commonality we all share.

I wonder at what point in his storied, seize-the-day life Bill Finnegan realized that surfing would always be a part of it. We all have interests that come and go, but for him it's clearly more than a hobby. Though to call it an obsession wouldn't be quite accurate either. It's more like surfing is his extended family of one—a love he will care for until he can no longer do so.

Things noticeably slow down in the middle chapters, probably because he's somewhat settled and is no longer globe-trotting, but I still recommend hanging in there through to the end. Seeing the author reflect back on a life well lived while guided by the wisdom of his twilight years makes the whole effort worth it.

m
manao
Aug 31, 2016

Long but well-written, informative, autobiographical story of global adventure travel and a detailed investigation into the obsessive fascination of surfing. Replete with the ring of truth.

_
_vineeth_
Aug 12, 2016

Obama's reading list

z
zukedgwa
Jul 31, 2016

Well written, engaging narrative if you are interested in adventure, surfing, or great life stories.

j
jannylegs
Jul 14, 2016

Fascinating and meaningful. Mixed enough of the personal with amazing travelogue and surf descriptions to keep me going for all 447 pages. Grateful that the author survived all of his somewhat harrowing adventures to write this memoir.

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m0mmyl00
Mar 29, 2017

This is a memoir of Finnegan's middle school years through his middle age years. He describes the intricacies of surfing, reading the waves -- their shapes, colors, movements, textures, sounds, starting and ending points, etc. -- and responding to them. He describes his responses in terms of his body's, his mind's, his heart's, his soul's reactions and adjustments. He spent several years traveling the world looking for excellent waves, all the while learning and respecting the local personalities and cultures. Surfing was everything. His attention to the smallest detail conveys how important those details were, and makes for fascinating reading. I was reminded of The Boys in the Boat and, to a lesser extent of H is for Hawk, both of which I liked very much.

After his round the world surfing stopped, the book dragged a bit -- most of life is not as interesting and surfing (because it's not? or because we don't focus on the details?). But it won me over again when he reconciled his new "old guy" approach to surfing with his regular life.

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