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Arctic Dreams Research Papers and Book Reviews

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In order to write a book like Barry Lopez’, Arctic Dreams, one must possess an extraordinary passion for the subject they’re writing about.  In Arctic Dreams, Lopez has, in essence, penned a 464 page love letter to one of the more unique and fascinating places on earth, a place he obviously holds considerable reverence for.  Arctic DreamsLike any romantic human relationship, Lopez’ relationship with nature, and specifically the people, animals and landscape of the North American Artic, encompasses a wide range of feelings and emotion; including love, admiration, respect and an overwhelming desire to learn about and become a part of the place of which he is so enamored.  In the books first pages Lopez chooses two quotes to set the tone of the book.  The latter, by N. Scott Momaday, reads:

Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth.  He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape in his experience; to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it

In reading his book, one gets the idea that Barry Lopez has done just that with the landscape of the Arctic, examining it from every angle, wondering about it and dwelling upon it.  The result of Lopez’ passion is a fascinating book and a new found appreciation for the power and beauty of nature by anyone who reads it.

When considering great books about man’s relationship with nature, Thoreau’s classic work, “Walden”, immediately comes to mind.  In it Thoreau withdraws from society and immerses himself in nature for a period of time, living in the Massachusetts woods near Walden Pond.  This is not entirely dissimilar to the way that Lopez immerses himself in the landscape of the Arctic, but there are differences to consider.  When compared to Lopez, Thoreau is, in effect, a tourist in the forest rather than a member of its community because the forest he sees is the forest of his mind and not the forest itself.  Lopez, subscribing to the thinking of the traditional indigenous people of the land he visited, says that this kind of thinking is “unabashed frontierism”. Lopez believes that a relationship with nature, like any relationship, requires an explicit recognition and understanding of the other and a deep commitment to place. Instead, one gets the feeling from Thoreau that nature is a park, to be visited, marveled at, benefited from, and left till the next time it is needed. Unlike Lopez, he never mentions responsibility to the place he lives.

Facts about Artic Dreams:

  • Originally published in 1986
  • Non-fiction
  • Awarded The National Book Award for Nonfiction

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