Compass Points

How I Lived

Publisher: Vintage
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.


In the Country of the Blind

"The blind eat many a fly," says a fifteenth-century proverb—familiar as recently as sixty years ago, when I was small and blind people were still all over, tap-tapping with their white canes and saddled with dark glasses. The cane, if waved peremptorily, with any luck...
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“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