Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska (Paperback)
Growing up in the Arctic, pragmatic, simple questions had useful answers. And frostbite was a way of life. In Shopping for Porcupine, Seth Kantner returns to the setting of his debut novel, Ordinary Wolves, with a fascinating account of life on North America's last frontier.
In these essays and photographs, Kantner chronicles the "by-hand times so recently passed," watching through the lens of his life the transformation of the Arctic as mainstream America moves relentlessly north. His story begins with the arrival of his father, Howard Kantner, to this world in the 1950s and ends with Kantner, a grown man, settled in the same landscape. "My memory begins under snow," he writes, recalling his early and longstanding respect for the old I upiaq ways, cold nights on caribou hides, swimming in the ice floes for wounded waterfowl, and fur-clad travelers stopping with their dog teams for visits.
Bracing and humorous, perceptive and profoundly illuminating, this extraordinary collection offers an ode to respect--that oft-forsaken, unromantic quality--for the land, for animals, and for "something as virtuous as gathering food."
Suspense and heartache are matched by wry humor and outrage, and all is infused with Kantner’s humility and deep respect for the wild as he decries the practices of high-tech trophy hunters, and maps his own metamorphosis from trapper and hunter to writer and photographer. Crafted with the precision and nerve acquired by living off the land, this is a powerful and important book of remembrance, protest, and warning.”
Booklist (starred review)
Inspiring stories of an upbringing in the frosty wilderness. Employing a pleasant, conversational tone, novelist and outdoor photographer Kantner fondly relates his life in Alaska.”
A lovely memoir. [Kantner} documents the wisdom of the disappearing Inuit culture his dad revered, and locates its place in modern life. With a sensitive, graceful voice and his own stunning color images, Kantner proves an appealing and talented artist.”
In his new memoir, Kantner describes an Alaskan childhood spent trapping wolverines and jigging for grayling with his back-to-the-land parents and, later, on his own.”
Whatever mental picture you have of life in rural Alaska, these autobiographical essays will make you see something different. Kantner’s pull-no-punches, head-on stories are raw, beautiful, and unnerving.”
The stories are spell-binding, the writing magnificent.”
The definition of life in the Bush has changed radically in the days since he was born and while tradition demands one thing, modern living tends to veer in another direction. Kantner is as conflicted as anyone else on this subject but he bravely asks the questions and voices the concerns that usually go unheard. When you couple this with his observations about the changing climate in his backyard,” the book becomes a powerful exploration of our rapidly evolving world and a primer for understanding the dichotomy between the two strongest versions of Alaskan life.”
Shopping for Porcupine is a book that weaves between worry and worship, to borrow a phrase from its author, Seth Kantner. The autobiographical essays collected here offer a glimpse of Kantner’s life in his native north Alaska, portraying a harsh landscape at once torn by progress and brimming with wild blessings.”
High Country News
Kantner is a natural (no pun intended) storyteller, and describes the tundra’s immensity and timelessness so completely that you imagine you could look out across it and see mammoth.”
One of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read truthful, raw, and lovely. The photographs make the sparse Arctic Alaskan landscape monumentally visible and profound, while Kantner’s writing imparts heroic dignity to the lives around him. This book is bound to become a classic alongside the works of Loren Eiseley, Edward Abbey, and John McPhee.”
Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife and Strange Angels
Full of stunning images, and only some of them are in the photos. Others are in the narrative accounts of traditions colliding, subsistences overlapping, dilemmas mounting. It’s all quite unforgettable.”
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and The End of Nature
Seth Kantner illuminates an Alaska most of us will never know.”
Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal
For all the popularity of the recent bestseller and hit movies about Alaska, Shopping for Porcupine comes from a place you haven’t seen and can hardly imagine.
Dan O’Neill, author of A Land Gone Lonesome
Searing honesty, lyric style, and raw emotional power. In Ordinary Wolves, you glimpsed Seth Kantner’s life between the words. Here you meet it head-on.”
Nick Jans, author of The Last Light Breaking