Geoffrey Wolff

The Hard Way Around: The Passages of Joshua Slocum

In The Hard Way Around, Joshua Slocum escaped a Dickensian childhood in Nova Scotia in 1860, at the age of sixteen, as an ordinary seaman. Despite his third-grade education, Slocum’s rise through the ranks was mercurial: just a decade later he was commander of his own ship, the first of many. In 1895 he set sail—by himself—in the small sloop Spray. More than three years and forty-six thousand miles later, he became the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo, a feat that wouldn’t be replicated for another quarter century. His account of that voyage, Sailing Alone Around the World, soon made him famous. A decade later, he set off alone once more—and was lost at sea.

Geoffrey Wolff was born in 1937 in Hollywood, California. His parents split up when Geoffrey was twelve, and he chose to live with his father, while his much younger brother, Tobias, spent his childhood with their mother. Under his father’s tutelage, Geoffrey learned to race motorboats, crash cars, discern great jazz from good, and skip town in the middle of the night. Later he went to Choate, Princeton, and Cambridge and taught at a university outside Istanbul before beginning his career writing obituaries for the Washington Post.

Wolff’s works include novels (Bad Debts, Providence, and The Final Club), biographies of Harry Crosby and John O’Hara, a collection of essays, a book about Maine and a memoir, Duke of Deception, about life with his father. From 1995 to 2006, he was director of the Graduate Program in Writing at University of California, Irvine. Now retired, he lives, with his wife, Priscilla, in New England near their two sons and three grandchildren.

The Savannah Book Festival is a non-profit organization that hosts a weekend-long festival each year of the written and spoken word, February 18-20, 2010. Free and open to the public at Telfair Square, in the Historic District of Savannah, Ga.


This author’s appearance at the 2011 festival has been graciously sponsored by:

  • Mr. and Mrs. Frederic and Mary Ann Beil
  • Savannah Ocean Exchange