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Item #: OP282-165
NORTH TO THE NIGHT: A SPIRITUAL ODYSSEY IN THE ARCTIC Alvah Simon 1998 Paperback New
By Simon, Alvah
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NY, 1998. 330 pp, b/w photos. New paperback.

In the summer of 1992, Simon and his wife, both experienced adventurers, set off in a 36-foot sailboat, the Roger Henry, toward northern Canada to spend a year above the Arctic Circle. In his survival memoir, Simon recounts the physical and psychological demands of the Arctic with an almost sheepish bravado; his capacity to discuss the beauty of the landscape, the culture of the Inuit and the protean nature of glacial ice is matched only by a reckless drive to make his journey more "authentic" by taking unnecessary, and often life-endangering, risks.
 
This juxtaposition makes for gripping reading, particularly when Simon is left alone to face the sunless, sub-zero winter months of "lifesucking cold" after his wife is called away to be with her dying father. Yet the author's account is often frustratingly lacking in introspection. Running low on fuel as the cold and darkness press in on him, Simon, in harrowing solitude from November to March, might have paused to offer some self-reflection on the mixed motives of the contemporary survivalist-adventurer?a dilemma discussed in much greater depth in John Krakauer's Into the Wild, for example.
 
Instead, Simon delivers the tropes we have come to expect from this genre (humility in the face of nature, an unfocused critique of "civilization," the romanticization of native cultures), none of which are made more convincing in light of his daredevil behavior and steel-sided ship. Some readers may be troubled by the absence of a reason for this adventure, other than to flirt with death.

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