The Year of the Boat - [Excerpt] Beauty, Imperfection, and the Art of Doing It Yourself Sasquatch Books 2008
It began as a project to build a wooden sailboat in a suburban garage within a self-imposed deadline of one year. But difficulties—both technical and emotional—made a shambles of the deadline, and Lawrence Cheek’s project to build a boat became an inquiry into the nature of beauty, a struggle with obsession and perfectionism, and finally a question of character. The Year of the Boat is the story of how one man built a boat in spite of himself.
When Lawrence Cheek sets out to build his own wooden sailboat, a 13 1/2 -foot sailing dinghy, he has no idea how deep the project will take him. Wooden boats embody a classic ideal of simplicity and excellence, and Cheek finds himself (in spite of himself) drawn toward these values. There is the challenge of making something oneself (including forgoing pride to ask for help), then there is the struggle with perfectionism and its tendency to leach pleasure from the enterprise. Cheek's writing style is apt: somewhere between pure practical advice from lessons learned the hard way and gentle philosophizing.
—Los Angeles Times
I often found myself laughing aloud, tickled by Cheek’s self-deprecating wit (“Far From Perfect was looking ridiculously, pathetically, irredeemably small, like a lasagna you’ve just baked for dinner and you realize it can’t possibly feed the six guests who are at this moment shuffling up the walk”) and by startling descriptions that could only come from the pen of a well-rounded writer (the arc of the hull’s sheerline “establishes the character of the whole design, like the clarinet glissando that opens Rhapsody in Blue”) ... The Year of the Boat is recommended reading for anyone thinking of attempting in their own garage what Cheek manages to (just barely) accomplish in his.
Building a wooden sailboat is about far more than inserting Block A into Slot C or sanding into infinity. As author Lawrence Cheek points out in the subtitle, it’s about beauty, imperfection, and the art of do-it-yourself. The Whidbey Island resident beautifully draws us into his world and the philosophical and psychological challenges that weigh heavier than the physical or technical problems. This is a book for all of us, even those who have never left the land. —The Olympian
The narrative ebbs and flows between Cheek’s work on the boat and musings on everything from the history of pleasure craft to his beef with archaic boat building conventions, the impact of his woodworking mistakes on the environment, and man’s place in nature, which serve as welcome context to Cheek’s own path of personal growth. Old salts will smile at his frustrations, mishaps and victories, and even landlubbers will be happy they went along for the ride. --Seattle Magazine
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FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT IN ARIZONA - [Excerpt] Rio Nuevo Publishers 2006 Reviews:
Cheek has done the interviews and research of a responsible reporter in Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona. He has selected vibrant color photographs and evocative black-and-whites to illustrate his text; and he's told the story and mused over its significance in thoughtful, lyrical prose. It's a celebratory, desert-colorful little coffee-table essay. —Tucson Weekly
THE NAVAJO LONG WALK - [Excerpt] Rio Nuevo Publishers 2004