Friday, January 07, 2005

What I'm reading

Right now, I'm reading Ken McGoogan's book Ancient Mariner (a biography of the Arctic explorer Samuel Hearne). While impressed with the hardship Hearne endured, and the Voltaire-inspired humanism he (presumably) displayed, I am disgusted by the brutal massacres he describes as taking place between his Dene guides and various other Native groups they encounter. I am very engaged by the narrative, although I'm guessing that McGoogan has filled in a lot of blanks with fancy and he often repeats himself. I'm O.K. when an author fictionalizes to make a story richer, but it appears that the author moves between research findings and made-up conversations with the same presumption of factual authority. Nonetheless, a very good read which makes me want to read Hearne's original travel account (Journey to the Northern Ocean.). It also has me wondering about my respect for David Thompson (explorer for HBC/NWC in Canadian West) -- McGoogan digs up some dirt on him which doens't fit with previous idea(l) of Thompson the intrepid and sensitive trail wanderer -- I actually lost some sleep over this. I'm not being pretentious here! I have very few heroes... most of them are historical figures like Thompson so I feel unsettled when part of my personal myth comes under review. BTW, I saw a first edition (1795) of Hearne's journal for sale online for only $7800 U.S.!.

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