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Reviews 177 had been published, indeed, for more than three decades after his death, London criticism had little stature above the carp and cavil, bark and snap school of thought. It has only been in recent times, from the 1950’s to the present, that important critical work has been published — a steady trickle to this day— on London’s works. It is now, after all, 63 years since London died, and Ray Ownbey’s “Essays in Criticism” is the first book of its kind. It is an auspicious beginning. DALE L. WALKER, The University of Texas at El Paso A Whaler and Trader in the Arctic. By Arthur James Allen. (Anchorage: Alaska Northwest, 1978. 213 pages, $5.95.) What Jim Allen’s autobiography, “A Whaler and Trader in the Arctic” achieves is to let the reader experience the Arctic, a region that remains distant and incomprehensible to most. Allen’s gift of writing clearly and simply creates an understandable Arctic. Jim Allen was born in San Francisco in 1875. His father, an Irish immigrant who worked as a marine engineer, tried to discourage young Jim from being a mariner, but Allen was restless with school and academics and at fifteen got a job in the engine room of a steamship. With that he began his life-long involvement with the ocean. At age nineteen both of Allen’s parents died within two months of each other. He deeply loved his mother in particular, and describes him­ self as going “plumb to hell for awhile.” One year later he was offered a job on the whaler “Jeanie” and left California for three years in the Arctic. At that time the bowhead whale had been eliminated in all but its Arctic range and whaling companies from both New England and the West Coast reached into the treacherous Arctic Ocean in the mid-1800s with expectation of large profit. In whaling terms the bowhead and related whale species are called “right” whales because they have baleen, the fibrous sieving teeth for plankton, thick blubber and a docile nature. Because of the ravenous market for baleen (used in making women’s corsets) a single bowhead could bring $10,000. To make these expensive and long voyages to the Arctic profitable, the whalers would spend several continuous years in the Arctic. In 1910 the market abruptly dropped out of sight for bowheads when spring steel was used in corsets as a substitute for baleen. By this time, the bowhead, a principal Eskimo food, was dangerously near extinction. 178 Western American Literature Instead of returning to the “outside” (a term still used in the Arctic today) Allen, in the autumn of 1897, became involved with a now famous Arctic event. His ship and two others became locked in the young ocean ice and all three crews were forced to abandon ship and walk sixty miles to Barrow. Shelter and supplies were minimal in the Eskimo village and living conditions proved to be incredibly grim. Nevertheless for Allen it was a beautiful winter, for he greatly increased his knowledge of how to live and survive in the Arctic by going on several outings with Eskimo friends. One excellent chapter concentrates on the Eskimo culture. Read this slowly, for in this chapter one sees this culture is built upon pragmatism. Archeologists now believe that it may be the oldest continuously intact culture in the world, dating back 8,000 years. It occurred to me as I read this chapter that the extreme selective forces of the Arctic have undoubtedly played a strong role in shaping these hardy, inventive and intelligent people. A Whaler and Trader in the Arctic is not a refined literary work, but Allen’s clear style builds a powerful and realistic picture of the Arctic. Like the cold rough beauty of the alpine regions, the Arctic has its enchant­ ment, and in Allen’s book the immense and incredible Arctic gets due recognition. JOHN CRAIGHEAD GEORGE, Fairbanks, Alaska Two In The Far North. By Margaret E. Murie. Illustrated by Olaus J. Murie. (Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Company, 1978. 385 pages, $6.95.) In this new edition of what the publishers deservedly call “a northern...


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pp. 177-178
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