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Reviews

Much in Little

When Harlan Hubbard and his wife, Anna, set themselves adrift on the Ohio in late 1946 in a homemade shantyboat, they began not only a five-year river adventure but a way of life together that was as distinctive as it was unmodern. In his memoir of that trip, Shantyboat: A River Way of Life, first published in 1953, Hubbard wrote: "I had no theories to prove. I merely wanted to try living by my own hands, independent as far as possible from a system of divison of labor in which the participant loses most of the pleasure of making and growing things for himself . . . I wanted to do as much as I could for myself, because I had already realized from partial experience the inexpressible joy of so doing."

Born in 1900 in Bellevue, Kentucky, Hubbard grew up there and then in New York City, in the years after his father died, returning to his home state to work as an odd-jobs man and a day laborer. His free time went to music, his journal, canoe trips and especially painting, though he was unable to make anything of a success at it, and in general he would have been counted by most of the world as an unsuccessful man when at the age of 43 he married Anna Eikenhout, herself 41, a librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library. It was she, a city girl, who suggested they start on his much-dreamed-of trip by shantyboat. They lived by barter, gardening, fishing, and foraging on their way down the Ohio, and when they met up with...

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