In the 1850s, a wealthy British philanthropist by the name of Lord Dufferin sailed his yacht into the Arctic Circle and wrote the bestselling travelogue Letters from High Latitudes
. In the 1990s, British writer Tim Moore decided to follow Dufferin's steps--by boat, plane, and bike. This retracing of Dufferin's travels across Iceland, into Norway, and to Spitzbergen (prompted when Moore reads the Lord's 19th-century memoir) is told in a lively, self-deprecating style and starts out brimming with funny anecdotes and interesting tidbits, particularly about Iceland, a report-happy land where the government commissions studies about "the effects of centrifugal force at roundabouts" and where "53 percent of the Icelanders believe in elves."
While Moore continues to unleash an often funny ramble about his northern excursion, something happens mid-book around the time he learns he's lost a work-related lawsuit back in England: perhaps Moore's mind is disintegrating in the polar blasts or he's lost his will to sustain an audience, but the writer's style becomes more manic, his recorded observations are frequently peppered with the base and crude, and his obsession changes from the travels of Lord Dufferin to the fate of one of Dufferin's colleagues, Wilson. The same writing voice that keeps one amused through the first half of the book starts to annoy by the end, as Moore stops providing much relevant info, and instead goes on at great lengths about the price of hot dogs, his nights of drinking and frequent bouts of nausea. Too disgusting in parts to warrant a recommendation to those easily shocked, this jumbled travelogue is nevertheless an often entertaining look into Tim Moore's personal Arctic madness. --Melissa Rossi
From Library Journal
When Moore, a writer for British Esquire, found a copy of Letters from High Latitudes (1856), Lord Dufferin's detailed, best-selling, 19th-century travel memoir of a trip to and from Iceland (on wooden schooner, horseback, and ship), he was so intrigued that he decided to retrace the journey. Instead of a schooner, Moore opted to take a freighter; instead of horseback, he road across Iceland on a mountain bike. Later, he joined a small-boat convoy that sailed from Norway back to Iceland. For the rest of the trip, he took commercial ferries. Moore is a talented writer with a keen wit and sarcastic sense of humor that is sometimes difficult to decipher amid all the contemporary British slang and allusions. There's also an introspective and dark edge to his humor not unlike Gregory Janes's in Come Hell or High Water (LJ 10/1/97). The result is an interesting travel diary--though still not as engaging as Dufferin's classic out-of-print work. For all public libraries.-John Kenny, San Francisco P.L.
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