In a luminous memoir of a life richly lived, one of America’s finest writers explores the themes that have shaped his life and work: the glories of the natural world, the lure of working for a circus and fighting forest fires, the afflictions of temporary blindness and blocked speech, and the enduring influence of literary friendships, including John Berryman’s, Edward Abbey’s, and his mentor, Archibald MacLeish.
From his childhood in rural Connecticut to some of the earth’s last remaining wildernesses, Hoagland has traveled the world wielding his unusual gift for observation. In Compass Points he delivers an honest and lively accounting of his voyages through two marriages; the New York parties he attended as a precocious young writer; Vermont hippiedom and academia; his many vivid sojourns into Europe, Alaska, British Columbia, the Sudan; and, perhaps most unforgettably, his stint in the “Animal Department” of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fifty years ago. Leavened with Hoagland’s trademark humor and insight, Compass Points is an entertaining and moving account of the days and nights of one of our most eminent literary voices.
About the Author
Widely celebrated for his essays on travel and nature, Edward Hoagland has written more than twenty books. Both fiction and nonfiction, his works include "Cat Man" (his first book, which won the 1954 Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship), "Walking the Dead Diamond River" (a 1974 National Book Award nominee), "African Calliope" (a 1980 American Book Award nominee), and "The Tugman's Passage" (a 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award nominee). He worked at the Barnum & Bailey Circus while attending Harvard in the early 1950s and later traveled around the world writing for "Harper's, National Geographic", and other magazines. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships and in 1982 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hoagland was the editor of "The Best American Essays" 1999, and taught at The New School, Rutgers, Sarah Lawrence, CUNY, the University of Iowa, UC Davis, Columbia University, Beloit College, and Brown University. In 2005, he retired from a teaching position at Bennington College in Vermont. He lives in northern Vermont.
“Ablaze with wonder in nature but also at the glorious mess of the human condition.”–The Washington Post Book World
“The precision with which Hoagland sees and the appetite with which he explores are staggering.”–Philip Roth
“A poignant and substantive summing up of the life and work of one of the finest writers this nation has produced.”–The Oregonian
“Compass Points is sensual, taut, pungent, and full of the hot licks of a vigorous, involved life.” -- Annie Proulx