Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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**Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography**

*Included in President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List*

A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer

Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, 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, and 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. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whitesonly gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us 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 LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, 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 the gradual mastering of an exacting, 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.

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About the author

WILLIAM FINNEGAN is the author of Cold New World, A Complicated War, Dateline Soweto, and Crossing the Line. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.


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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jul 21, 2015
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780698163744
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Sports & Recreation / Surfing
Travel / Special Interest / Adventure
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Barbarian Days, this narrative nonfiction classic documents the rising inequality and cultural alienation that presaged the crises of today.
 
“A status report on the American Dream [that] gets its power [from] the unpredictable, rich specifics of people’s lives.”—Time
 
“[William] Finnegan’s real achievement is to attach identities to the steady stream of faceless statistics that tell us America’s social problems are more serious than we want to believe.”—The Washington Post
 
A fifteen-year-old drug dealer in blighted New Haven, Connecticut; a sleepy Texas town transformed by crack; Mexican American teenagers in Washington State, unable to relate to their immigrant parents and trying to find an identity in gangs; jobless young white supremacists in a downwardly mobile L.A. suburb. William Finnegan spent years embedded with families in four communities across the country to become an intimate observer of the lives he reveals in Cold New World. What emerges from these beautifully rendered portraits is a prescient and compassionate book that never loses sight of its subjects’ humanity.
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • A LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST NONFICTION SELECTION

Praise for Cold New World
 
“Unlike most journalists who drop in for a quick interview and fly back out again, Finnegan spent many weeks with families in each community over a period of several years, enough time to distinguish between the kind of short-term problems that can beset anyone and the longer-term systemic poverty and social disintegration that can pound an entire generation into a groove of despair.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
“The most remarkable of William Finnegan’s many literary gifts is his compassion. Not the fact of it, which we have a right to expect from any personal reporting about the oppressed, but its coolness, its clarity, its ductile strength. . . . Finnegan writes like a dream. His prose is unfailingly lucid, graceful, and specific, his characterization effortless, and the pull of his narrative pure seduction.”—The Village Voice

“Four astonishingly intimate and evocative portraits. . . . All of these stories are vividly, honestly and compassionately told. . . . While Cold New World may make us look in new ways at our young people, perhaps its real goal is to make us look at ourselves.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Barbarian Days, this narrative nonfiction classic documents the rising inequality and cultural alienation that presaged the crises of today.
 
“A status report on the American Dream [that] gets its power [from] the unpredictable, rich specifics of people’s lives.”—Time
 
“[William] Finnegan’s real achievement is to attach identities to the steady stream of faceless statistics that tell us America’s social problems are more serious than we want to believe.”—The Washington Post
 
A fifteen-year-old drug dealer in blighted New Haven, Connecticut; a sleepy Texas town transformed by crack; Mexican American teenagers in Washington State, unable to relate to their immigrant parents and trying to find an identity in gangs; jobless young white supremacists in a downwardly mobile L.A. suburb. William Finnegan spent years embedded with families in four communities across the country to become an intimate observer of the lives he reveals in Cold New World. What emerges from these beautifully rendered portraits is a prescient and compassionate book that never loses sight of its subjects’ humanity.
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • A LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST NONFICTION SELECTION

Praise for Cold New World
 
“Unlike most journalists who drop in for a quick interview and fly back out again, Finnegan spent many weeks with families in each community over a period of several years, enough time to distinguish between the kind of short-term problems that can beset anyone and the longer-term systemic poverty and social disintegration that can pound an entire generation into a groove of despair.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
“The most remarkable of William Finnegan’s many literary gifts is his compassion. Not the fact of it, which we have a right to expect from any personal reporting about the oppressed, but its coolness, its clarity, its ductile strength. . . . Finnegan writes like a dream. His prose is unfailingly lucid, graceful, and specific, his characterization effortless, and the pull of his narrative pure seduction.”—The Village Voice

“Four astonishingly intimate and evocative portraits. . . . All of these stories are vividly, honestly and compassionately told. . . . While Cold New World may make us look in new ways at our young people, perhaps its real goal is to make us look at ourselves.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
 Em autobiografia vencedora do Prêmio Pulitzer, jornalista da revista The New Yorker apresenta o surfe em uma perspectiva extremamente pessoal, original e surpreendente.

 

O surfe é um esporte, mas só para os que apenas assistem. Para quem surfa, trata-se de muito mais: um vício, uma arte, um estilo de vida. William Finnegan viveu a infância na Califórnia e no Havaí, e aprendeu cedo a surfar. Ao longo da vida, viajou o mundo em busca das melhores ondas. Amante de livros e de aventuras, tornou-se um escritor e correspondente de guerra de grande prestígio. Mas sua mais perfeita narrativa está em Dias bárbaros, a autobiografia vencedora do Pulitzer na qual ele compartilha, através de sua trajetória no surfe, as histórias da época em que pertencia a uma gangue de meninos brancos em Honolulu, a loucura que impregnou jovens e adultos na década de 1960, sua vivência das ondas mais famosas do mundo e tudo o que aprendeu com elas — do pesar de ter usado LSD para desbravar a baía de Honolua, em Maui, à satisfação intensa de atravessar os recifes da Polinésia de mapa em punho para descobrir uma das maiores ondas que existem.

À medida que as viagens de Finnegan o levam cada vez mais longe, suas memórias ganham um viés deliciosamente improvável, quase antropológico, que explora da simplicidade pitoresca de uma aldeia de pescadores em Samoa às excêntricas regras tonganesas para o sexo com estrangeiros. Mais do que um livro de aventura, Dias bárbaros é uma autobiografia inteligente, uma história social e um road movie literário. Apresenta de modo surpreendente o domínio gradual de uma arte tão exigente quanto magnífica, narrado com uma voz que transporta o leitor até as águas, as ondas, os povos e os países que Finnegan conheceu, extrapolando tempo e espaço em uma das melhores viagens que um livro será capaz de proporcionar.

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