Darkness -- huge and boundless, with only my one scoop of light, which thins across snow to gray, grayer, blackness. No assurance out there of another human, not on this planet anyway. I shovel my cave by headlight. Pitch in twin sleeping bags, a caribou hide, food. It’s small inside; big out here, and silent, a few flakes coming down, and a few stars blurry up there and not sharing their hard-traveling light. The air is not cold, only sixteen below, but a north breeze sears my cheeks.There are times in Seth Kantner’s memoir of growing up Arctic that we encounter this sort of cold, Northern poetry. A kind of love song to the harsh land that fed -- perhaps nurtured -- the talent in his young soul.
Through Kantner’s sharp eye we see not only his own coming-of-age, but the transformation of the land he so obviously loves. Not all of the transformations are good.
This carefully wrought memoir is his first book-length work of non-fiction. Kantner’s fiction debut, Ordinary Wolves, brought the author wide acclaim in 2004. Shopping for Porcupine (Milkweed Editions) will bring him still more.