Durr, R(obert) A(llen) (Bob Durr)
DURR, R(obert) A(llen)
PERSONAL: Born in Brooklyn, NY. Education: Hofstra College, B.A. (cum laude, with honors); University of Connecticut, M.A.; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—Talkeetna, AK. Agent—c/o St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
CAREER: Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, former professor; self-employed writer, fisherman, and artist, 1968–.
MEMBER: Alaska Watercolor Society.
Poetic Vision and the Psychedelic Experience, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1970.
(As Bob Durr) Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier (memoir), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(As Bob Durr) The Coldman Cometh: A Family's Adventure in the Alaska Bush (memoir), Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: R. A. Durr was a tenured professor who had spent several summers with his family at an isolated Alaskan lake before they made a permanent move there in 1968. They lived in temporary cabins for two years while Durr built one large enough for the family, with the help of neighbors and his eldest son. Publishing his work under the name Bob Durr, he has written two memoirs of life in Alaska: Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier and The Coldman Cometh: A Family's Adventure in the Alaska Bush.
In Down in Bristol Bay he writes of his homemade boat, Port n Storm, from which he fishes with his son for that short period of time each year when it is possible. He writes of his drinking—a popular pastime in the isolated north—his philosophy, and of adultery. Durr, who became known as "Jungle Bob," intersperses his story with quotes from Edgar Allan Poe and William Butler Yeats. He writes that in the Native Americans he found people "whose forebears and culture glowed like a beacon in my mind, guiding me into the deep channels from so-called civilization."
A Publishers Weekly contributor said that "evoking the earnest soul-seeking of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Durr spins out a metaphysics of adventure in which life is lived as a kind of 'sustained brinkmanship.'" "Brilliant, compelling, believable, and astonishingly sound, Durr's book challenges today's conventional wisdom and custom," wrote Patricia Monaghan in a Booklist review of Down in Bristol Bay.
Booklist critic Deborah Donovan wrote that Durr's second memoir, The Coldman Cometh, is "an adventure, a plea for an alternative lifestyle, and a survival saga by an author who still lives his story today." Durr recounts his family's story,tale, this time adding in the details of day-to-day survival and his acceptance of his need to own a chainsaw and a snowmobile. He writes of the sauna that burned down the family home, and of the subsequent task of rebuilding the house. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Coldman Cometh "as unadorned as the life described, aboriginal and rejoicing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Durr, Bob, Down in Bristol Bay: High Tides, Hangovers, and Harrowing Experiences on Alaska's Last Frontier, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Durr, Bob, The Coldman Cometh: A Family's Adventure in the Alaska Bush, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Patrician Monaghan, review of Down in Bristol Bay, p. 1510; June 1, 2004, Deborah Donovan, review of The Coldman Cometh, p. 1690.
Chicago Sun-Times, August 29, 2004, Stephen J. Lyons, review of The Coldman Cometh, p. 13.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004, review of The Coldman Cometh, p. 428.
Library Journal, April 1, 1999, Kimberly A. Bateman, review of Down in Bristol Bay, p. 120.
Publishers Weekly, April 19, 1999, review of Down in Bristol Bay, p. 46.
USA Today, August 17, 2004, review of The Coldman Cometh, p. B11.