Duane, Daniel 1967–
Duane, Daniel 1967–
(Daniel King Duane)
(As Daniel King Duane) Lighting Out: A Vision of California and the Mountains, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1994.
Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast, North Point Press/Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Looking for Mo (novel), Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
El Capitan: Historic Feats and Renegade Routes, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
(With Matt Warshaw) Maverick's: The Story of Big-Wave Surfing, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.
A Mouth like Yours (novel), Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to Surfers: Photographs, by Patrick Cariou, PowerHouse Books (New York, NY), 1997. Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Men's Journal, Outside, and the Village Voice.
SIDELIGHTS: Daniel Duane has carved a niche for himself writing firsthand accounts of the thrills of dangerous outdoor sports, especially those popular with the demographic group referred to as Generation X. Born in Berkeley, California, during the turbulent 1960s, and a child of civil rights activists, Duane was destined not to succumb, as many of his Cornell classmates did, to the temptations of a suit-and-tie job in the business world. He finished his undergraduate degree, having spent his junior year in the Pyrenees instead of in Paris, where he was supposed to be; and after graduating he returned to his home town to work in an outdoor outfitting shop.
As a child, under the influence of his father's personal library of mountaineering books, Duane became interested in mountain climbing. As a young man, he trained with his experienced father and uncle to conquer El Capitan, one of the most famous and perilous peaks in the Sierra Nevada range. The ascent succeeded, and Duane wrote a book about it titled Lighting Out: A Vision of California and the Mountains. The book also contains observations of café life among the twenty-something crowd, and of Duane's love affair with a feminist organic gardener. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented on Duane's description of mountaineering and called the book "a sort of nouveau Dharma Bums." Tim Markus, writing in the Library Journal, described the book as "a captivating debut" and lauded Duane's "wonderfully deadpan writing style." Gregory McNamee remarked in the Washington Post Book World that Duane's examination of his generation's culture fell short, but he caught the author's "obvious, infectious joy at scrambling about in the high country" and commended his "talent for conveying the feel of a climb."
In the course of a year, during which he was a part-time teaching assistant at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Duane thoroughly learned the sport of surfing and became acquainted with several of its colorful adherents. The result is Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast. A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to the book as a "testament to an obsession." Duane describes the physical sensations of surfing, the technique and precision demanded by the sport, and the introspections of surfers on their way of life. The reviewer called these aspects of the book "utterly intriguing." The same reviewer declared that Duane had fashioned "poetry from the surf's chaos—wild and vital, supple and elegant." John Murray, a reviewer for the Bloomsbury Review, characterized the book's arrival as nothing less than that of the "natural spokesman and … nascent laureate" of a generation. Murray called the book "significant not only for its deft grasp of subject and style but also for the promise it holds for greater things to come from a writer so young and gifted." The critic also commented: "This is a book to buy and read and share … he is, as they say, the real thing, and one has the continual sense that Duane is at the beginning of a fine career." Surfing commentator David Sheff, writing in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, stated that "the overall impact is … enthralling. Duane has an honest take on surf culture, seeing both the romance and the irony." The reviewer added that the author "has succeeded in creating a seductive journal that describes not only the complexities of this sport but offers a compelling glimpse into a profoundly different raison d'etre." Sheff admired Duane's "evocative, compelling observations about nature," which include "fresh and thrilling" descriptions of sharks, hawks, clouds, otters and pelicans. Boston Phoenix Review contributor Louisa Kamps called Duane's prose "lucid, lyrical" with "smart, funny, eclectic impressions."
The publication of Lighting Out caused a breach between Duane and some of the friends he included in the book. The author fictionalized this experience in his first novel, Looking for Mo. In an interview with Amazon.com, Duane stated: "My first book really cost me some friends, and I wanted to deal with that here, to think through what you do to people when you retell the way they tell the story of their own lives. In the end, I really didn't know what I thought about the issue—I'm a writer, and at some level this is what I do. That it causes damage is apparently something I'll just have to live with. On the other hand, I've learned a lot about a writer's responsibility to people, to friends and lovers, and others."
Numerous reviewers found echoes of Beat novelist Jack Kerouac and his road companion, Neal Cassidy, in Looking for Mo. Duane's alter ego in the story is Ray Connelly, a San Francisco rock climber who writes a successful novel about his wild friend, Mo Lehrman, and climbing El Capitan, the legendary three-thousand-foot sheer granite face in the Yosemite Valley. Ray uses Mo's personal stories in writing the novel, leading to a split between the two men. Mo disappears, and Ray searches for him in an episodic narrative that takes in a Hare Krishna commune, a Grateful Dead concert, and a return to El Capitan, where Ray and Mo's friendship is put to the test. Joanne Wilkinson stated in Booklist that Duane uses a "fresh and compelling" touch with climbing scenes. A writer for Entertainment Weekly noted Duane's "gorgeous nature writing," as well as his "sly satires" of California life. The exuberant energy of the book also appealed to Library Journal contributor Harold Augenbraum, who wrote that he was "unsure whether this is a novel of carpe diem or adventure, but with so much fun going on, you don't care."
Besides having personal knowledge of El Capitan, Duane also researched the rock face's history while working on Looking for Mo. In El Capitan: Historic Feats and Renegade Routes, he tells the stories of the people who have tried to conquer "El Cap," using the three natural ascents: the Nose, the Slathe, and the Pacific Ocean Wall. Duane's sure touch with writing about outdoor sport was still fresh, according to Library Journal contributor Nathan Ward. Ward praised Duane for conveying "the wonder and self-torture of his subject without lapsing into glorifying cliché." David Pitt, writing in Booklist, endorsed El Capitan, calling it "a dramatic book, full of derring-do, near misses, and thrills and chills."
Duane returns to the novel form with A Mouth like Yours. The story revolves around grad student Cassius Harper, who recounts how he falls in love with the unstable Joan Artois and leaves behind his more down-to-earth girlfriend, Shauna Rose. Despite the fact that Artois is wealthy, spoiled, and mistreats him, Harper finds that he just cannot help being drawn to her, despite recognizing that he will be hurt in the end. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "offers moments of keen observation and emotional lucidity." Another critic for Kirkus Reviews called the novel "an engagingly puerile narrative in the form of a modern morality play." On the other hand, Charlie Dickinson asserted on the Hackwriters.com Web site that the "novel is long on literary virtue—dialogue in particular."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Aethlon, spring, 1998, review of Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast, p. 215.
Bloomsbury Review, May, 1996, John Murray, review of Caught Inside, pp. 18-19.
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Alice Joyce, review of Caught Inside, p. 1664; June 1, 1998, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Looking for Mo, p. 1722; September 15, 2000, David Pitt, review of El Capitan: Historic Feats and Renegade Routes, p. 203; August, 2005, Joanne Wilkinson, review of A Mouth like Yours, p. 1990.
Entertainment Weekly, April 4, 1997, Daneet Steffens, review of Caught Inside, p. 78; July 17, 1998, review of Looking for Mo, p. 78.
Esquire, August, 1996, Will Blythe, review of Caught Inside, p. 34.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1994, review of Lighting Out: A Vision of California and the Mountains, p. 110; April 15, 1996, review of Caught Inside, p. 573; May 15, 1998, review of Looking for Mo, p. 676; June 15, 2005, review of A Mouth like Yours, p. 654.
Library Journal, March 1, 1994, Tim Markus, review of Lighting Out, p. 93; March 15, 1998, Nathan Ward, review of Surfer: Photographs, p. 60; May 15, 1998, Harold Augenbraum, review of Looking for Mo, p. 113; July, 2000, Nathan Ward, review of El Capitan, p. 104.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 14, 1996, David Sheff, review of Caught Inside, p. 4.
New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998, Brad Wetzler, review of Looking for Mo, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly, May 6, 1996, review of Caught Inside, p. 64; April 20, 1998, review of Looking for Mo, p. 46; June 13, 2005, review of A Mouth like Yours, p. 30.
Sports Illustrated, August 26, 1996, Michael Bamberger, review of Caught Inside, p. 14.
Washington Post Book World, May 8, 1994, Gregory McNamee, review of Lighting Out, p. 6; April 20, 1997, review of Caught Inside, p. 12; August 23, 1998, review of Looking for Mo, p. 9.
Western American Literature, fall, 1997, review of Caught Inside, p. 300.
Whole Earth Review, winter, 1997, Joshua Karliner, review of Caught Inside, p. 98.
Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/ (November 28, 2000), interview with Daniel Duane.
Boston Phoenix Review Online, http://www.bostonphoenix.com/ (April 29, 2006), Louisa Kamps, review of Caught Inside.
Hackwriters.com, http://www.hackwriters.com/ (April 29, 2006), Charlie Dickinson, review of A Mouth like Yours.
Metroactive, http://www.metroactive.com/ (April 26, 2006)), Michelle Goldberg, "Daniel Duane's California Dreaming."
Salon, http://www.salonmagazine.com/ (April 29, 2006).