His body twisted by adolescent scoliosis, Lynn Schooler's soul was scarred from the loneliness of someone who, at an early age, stood "at a strange angle to the rest of the world". He made a life on the slim crescent of remote Alaskan coastline surrounding the city of Juneau, a place where he was least likely to encounter people. In 1990, celebrated Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino hired Schooler to help him shoot a segment on humpback whales in Glacier Bay, and the two formed a profound friendship. Their conversations often revolved around the glacier bear (known as the blue bear for its unique granite-coloured fur), a nearly extinct creature so rare that it is shrouded in legend. Together the two men became obsessed with finding the animal, every year searching through Ice-Age vistas to capture the blue bear on film. Their obsession cost Hoshino his life when he was killed by a grizzly bear. But alone in the eighth year, Schooler finally found and photographed the elusive creature.
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In The Blue Bear wildlife guide Lynn Schooler writes, "People step into the [Alaskan] landscape and vanish without a trace." The book is an ode to the wild beauty of the Alaskan coast, an unusual friendship and a mysterious bear with fur the colour of "burnished metal". Schooler spent a decade searching for the elusive blue (or glacier) bear with Michio Hoshino, Japan's pre-eminent wildlife photographer. Hoshino was a gentle genius who would sit still for hours, his face swelling from mosquito bites, for the perfect photograph, and who had the same patience and consideration for a bruised heart like Schooler's. Schooler had lost all ability to trust, scarred first by the scorn of classmates for his twisted body and finally by the brutal murder of the woman he loved. But as a guide--both for wildlife photographers and for readers of this evocative and gracefully composed memoir--he richly reveals the place that sustains him. Schooler makes remarkable connections between whales and the complex workings of old-growth forests, between glaciers dropping 100-foot columns of ice into waiting fjords and the breathing of the planet. Ultimately, though, it is Hoshino's death by a bear that finally enables Schooler to make peace with humanity and death. This is a quiet, profound gem. --Lesley ReedReview:
'Schooler’s book stands as a moving tribute both to the man, and to the landscape that so captivated each of them.’ -- Publishing News
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