A Trip to the Boundary Waters


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Alex Kotlowitz is known as a chronicler of the city of Chicago, and of lives marred by urban poverty and violence. His books set in Chicago include “An American Summer,” “There Are No Children Here,” and “Never a City So Real.” But for some 40 years, he has returned to a remote stretch of woods summer after summer. At a young age, he found himself navigating a canoe through a series of lakes, deep in the woods along Minnesota’s border with Canada. The stretch of wilderness is known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Larger than the state of Rhode Island, it is a patchwork of more than a thousand lakes, so pristine you can drink directly from the surface. At the age of sixty-seven, he finds the days of paddling, the leaky tents, the long portages, the schlepping of days’ worth of food (and alcohol) harder, but Kotlowitz will return to the Boundary Waters as long as he can. This spring, he brought a recorder with him on his annual canoe trip, capturing what has kept him coming back year after year. Plus, Susan Orlean remembers Ivana Trump, who died last month, at the age of 73.

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