And just say: Read this book. Crucially, it is also a meditation on the very concept of landscape and how we view it, explain it and relate to it. The passenger turns out to be the president of a shipping company. Lopez does not deal in superficial so though mesmerizing, it is not an effortless read. It includes segments on muskoxen, polar bears, beluga and bowhead whales, narwhals, seals, walruses, migration patterns, where its people originated and how they live, hunting, ice and snow, the aurora borealis, history of its Extremely readable and beautifully written nonfiction covering almost every aspect of the arctic.
It marries science and sentiment extremely well, though it occasionally drifts into rather esoteric realms. I learned a lot about these animals I did not know. But it is an incredibly harsh environment; it takes no prisoners. Many birds retain heat by an adaptive circulatory system that channels cooling veinous blood through a coil of warm arterial blood before circulating it to the body core. And the arctic is no different than other parts of the world.
A stretch of bad days in temperate climates will inconvenience you--in the arctic they could kill you. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. If I had read it when I was 12 or 13, I think I would have considered it one of the best books ever and really sunk into it. I especially liked his discussions of the land and how different peoples describe and view the land differently. It was worth reading, but I have read better though. The second hero of the book are the native peoples, whom he calls Eskimos. He wonders how one might identify areas that would be perfect for musk oxen even if the animals are absent.
This is a sprawling book which straddles poetic description and scientific observation. He covers topics not typically found in a science-based book, such as art, culture, emotion, imagination, spirituality, philosophy, and the capacity for astonishment. I would like to incorporate some of their language into English. Written in prose as memorably pure as the land it describes, Arctic Dreams is a timeless mediation on the ability of the landscape to shape our dreams and to haunt our imaginations. Normally native people only ever get to talk to emissaries several degrees removed from the actual bosses, if they get to talk to anyone at all. Part of which is me; part the book. I have read numerous scientific books and I am fascinated by the ability to survive in extreme conditions.
My edition also had an introduction by Robert MacFarlane, who cites Dreams as one of his touchstone texts for his own writing - and I was struck by the similarity. The arctic is mesmerizing, amazing, and beautiful, but a thoroughly brutal place. It may not sound it but it is absolutely riveting. I think I'm a little more attuned to the absurd now. Yet scientific fact, observed reality, yield to the mystery that pervades Lopez's account. Populations live on the margins, which can easily be squeezed by natural or human factors for years or decades at a time, only to rebound fantastically when conditions improve. It is a compilation of around 10 essays, which can be read separately, each one focusing on a different subject, as Lopez focuses on the inhabitants, visitors and four-legged, two-winged migrants of a frozen territory in the North.
I liked what Lopez is presenting here with wildlife and the natural world of the arctic. Today it reads like a tragedy. He talks about joking with his comrades, but I cannot really imagine him making jokes. Crucially, it is also a meditation on the very concept of landscape and how we view it, explain it and relate to it. I read this book about 15 years ago and did not like it. It means the soul living within the word.
Not only is there an index and numerous maps, but there is an appendix of locations giving degrees of latitude and longitude. But as the book went on, I found it more information, science and history than, in the end, I was able to absorb. To the northwest is the open Chukchi Sea. There is an Eskimo anecdote about a polar bear that pushed a block of ice ahead of himself to sneak up on a seal. If starvation would not be the literal outcome of ending the seal hunt, the scene is suggestive of the damage to Inuit culture if this long practice would be discontinued.
It makes you want to go there, to see the bleak desolation, brought to life at certain times and places by great herds of caribou, packs of wolves, pods of narwhals, flocks of geese and gulls and guillemots; to visit the vast geography of islands and seas with welcoming Victorian names--Prince of Wales Island, Melville Sound, Devon Island--all of Lovely writing about the arctic, mainly the Canadian archipelago. It has drawn explorers and writers, adventurers and artists who use the landscape for inspiration. You can sit for a long time with the history of man like a stone in your hand. Jet-black guillemots streaking over the white ice I loved the landscape parts of the book, his eye for details on the landscape and the people are really good, and the writing comes across so well you could be there watching the aurora borealis with him. Casual familiarity with the Inuit is enough to understand the historic importance of dog sleds to their lives, and some may know that snowmobiles have overwhelmingly replaced dog sleds as the main mode of tundra transit. I stumbled on this in 2005, in a little bookstore in Heidelberg specializing in used English-language books.
At its heart it is a celebration of the profusion of life, all manners of life, and it succeeds on every page. And while he certainly does the landscapes justice in his descriptions, I was always coming to the conclusion that there simply is no describing the Arctic landscape, whether in words or pictures--to fully, truly experience the Arctic, one must go there. Its prose as hauntingly pure as the land it describes, Arctic Dreams is nothing less than an indelible classic of modern literature. It could just as easily fit into a structure of loosely related essays, so wide-ranging is the content. I was just trying to refill my reading material for my trip with something at least marginally interesting, but this turned out to be one of the most stunningly gorgeous books I've ever read--Lopez manages to not only see the hidden beauty of the seemingly barren Arctic landscape, but capture and convey its glory through his prose. But there's something about Lopez's writing that represents more arrogance than a true scientist should have. If I had read it when I was 12 or 13, I think I would have considered it one of the best books ever and really sunk into it.