Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Arctic Alaska

Shopping for Porcupine

A Life in Arctic Alaska
“Raw, beautiful, and unnerving.” —ORION

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 Iñupiaq 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.”