Non-fiction: John C. Behrendt: Innocents on the Ice (University Press of Colorado, 1998)
Finally a proper Antarctica book! The last two have been a bit peripheral on the subject, but this one tackles it straight on. It is the story of the Finn Ronne expedition of 1957, seen through the eyes of one of the scientists present. It consists of his original diary and comments written in 1997. The format is very expressive, and the comments feel more like depth than excuses, which is always good.
The book is also interesting because it gives a good picture of the everyday work of the scientific personnell and because the expedition had a lot of interpersonal problems. Still, the story I would really like to read would have been that of one of the U.S. Navy construction workers.
Sometimes it seems that everyone who’s ever been to Antarctica has written a book like this about it.
Non-fiction: Jenny Diski: Skating to Antarctica (Granta Books, 1997)
There’s two distinct trends in the titles of books about Antarctica. One is featured in the title of Diski’s book, the X to Antarctica. Another example of this is a swimming biography called Swimming to Antarctica. The other big trend is X on Ice (examples: Vodka on Ice, Innocents on the Ice).
This was one of those books that remind you of the fact that almost all forms of culture are principally consumed by middle aged women. They pay for it and it often reflects their tastes. It is a good book of a kind I would never have read if it didn’t have something to do with Antarctica.
Skating to Antarctica weaves together two threads, autobiographical material about the author’s difficult childhood, and the story of how she went on an Antarctic cruise. The book is very self-reflective, so in the end all this is just a backdrop for the author’s internal processes.
The Antarctica material was interesting because this was the first book I’ve read that dealt with the most simple and least adventurous of the tourist solutions, a cruise you can get on an old Russian Arctic ship. One more piece for the puzzle.
Otherwise, the autobiographical material made for interesting reading that was a bit spoiled by happening to occur in the context of the creepy American fashion for autobiographical books about being sexually abused when they were children. Still, it was tastefully done.