I finished Cabin Pressure the other day. In many places I found it infuriating: men who are supposed to role models to boys use "girls" as the ultimate put down; counselors don't seem to curtail swearing around boys and don't seem to curtail boys' use of "fag" and the like as put downs; counselors drink on property; and the favorite camp roadtrip involves driving campers around New England looking for bridges to jump off -- and calling the kids who won't do it names. I'll echo his former camp counselor-then-fiancee told him during one phone call, "'I'm not sure I like the way boys relate to each other.'"
Yet what Wolk loves about his camp, and what campers love and get out of it, shines through in so many moments of warm familiarity. For instance:
Non-denominational services in a grove on Sundays "were built around themes that all came back to what was important about camp. . . . When I was a camper and counselor, I heard the same life lessons week after week, year after year. But they always moved me, because I felt the same things.Or his description of that feeling of pride, self-sufficiency, and calmness you get when you walk back to your campsite without a flashlight:
. . . slowly inched down the hill, lifting my legs comically high with each step to avoid my feet catching on phantom tree roots. I flinched wildly when my head grazed a low branch. . . . and if I looked straight up, I could stay on the path by using the sky in the break between the tops of the trees on either side of me as my guide. My springy steps lowered, as the latent instinctual memory of the obstacles on this route came back to me.
With my last several summers at CK being ones of decreasing numbers of nights living there, I made those same high steps and flailed wildly at innocent branches that snuck up on me. But as the skill came back, I'd feel so good, so safe and clever.
Over all, I enjoyed this book. I reached August with him, just as my internal clock (and the shorter days, and the yellowing tulip poplars, and the singing crickets) is saying it's time to put the trunk in the car and drive home. I don't know to whom I would recommend Cabin Pressure. Wolk mentions at some point that there are camp people and non-camp people. I'm not sure that there would be any point to suggesting it to non-camp people: why would they care? Would this give the impression of Camps I'd want? (No: too much crudeness and unsafe behavior. I wouldn't send a child to that camp) As for handing it to camp people, I bet they'd have some of the same reactions I did: MY camp is better for X,Y, and Z -- but, oh, his descriptions of A, B, and C are so spot on that it makes me feel at home/camp.