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In Fond Remembrance of Me: A Memoir of Myth and Uncommon Friendship in the Arctic Hardcover – January 27, 2005

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Norman's evocative novels are drenched in the Arctic's treacherous beauty and pragmatic mysticism, and he has chronicled some of his real-life Arctic adventures in My Famous Evening [BKL Mr 15 04]. Here he focuses on his 1977 sojourn in Churchill, Manitoba, where he is sent by a museum to translate stories told by an Inuit elder named Mark Nuqac only to discover that he isn't the only folklorist on the case. His fellow traveler is Helen Tanizaki, a far more accomplished linguist, translator, and expert in Arctic culture, a poetic woman dying of cancer who changes his life. Naturally there is melancholy in this elegant and haunting remembrance, but there is also wonder and comedy, especially in the spiky Inuit tales Nuqac tells about how Noah goes crazy when his ark gets trapped in the ice in the Hudson Bay. As always, Norman has a fine touch, and a keen sense of life's splendor and absurdity, as he turns his lyrical homage to a lost friend into a glimmering reflection on the power of the human spirit. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"I read In Fond Remembrance of Me the way I usually find myself reading Howard Norman. The manner in which he writes--with great clarity and liveliness, and never with ostentation--makes me read too quickly. When I'm done, I feel impelled to go back to the beginning and read again, and I always feel repaid. There are layers and layers of meaning in this simple-looking tale. What a delightful book!" --Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 166 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1st edition (February 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476806
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,634,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

HOWARD NORMAN is a three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and a winner of the Lannan Award for fiction. His 1987 novel, The Northern Lights, was nominated for a National Book Award, as was his 1994 novel The Bird Artist. He is also author of the novels The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L, and Devotion. His books have been translated into twelve languages. Norman teaches in the MFA program at the University of Maryland. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Vermont with his wife and daughter.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on April 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Although the title may sound like Norman is on an ego trip, he's really talking about another human being, a woman with whom he was once quite close, a woman he met, as Rex Harrison did Kay Kendall, while she was dying. Her name? Helen Tanizaki. Norman was a junior and Tanizaki a senior translator and Arctic analyst, and the two of them had met up in God's own country, Manitoba Canada, to transcribe

Did you know that both Deanna Durbin and Nia Vardalos (MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING) are both from Manitoba? Marshall McLuhan and Neil Young are others who hail from this part of the world. In the Inuit legends, Manitoba, about which Norman has written often, is derived from the sound that spirits play while beating on a "drum." Compare the word "manitou."

As Norman was to discover, there were one million filk legends on the Manitoba wind, and they had been so distorted by time and whispers that his informant, a colorful fellow, might tell Norman one version of the same story one afternoon, and that enebing he would have told Helen quite another. Howard Norman, of course, grew up to be one of the world's great story tellers himself, and this book is a bittersweet reflection of a love that didn't really "happen," but it happened nonetheless, and in her conviction of friendship for Norman, Tanizaki's name shall be long remembered, for he has written an astute memoir about her. I loved the part where Norman watches in helpless irritation, while Helen doubles over in laughter by something their Inuit informant is telling them. The truth is that Norman just isn't expert enough in the kanguage to understand Mark's quite ribald native humor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on May 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This memoir is full of reflections of the time he spent almost thirty years ago in the Arctic where he'd gone to listen to an old man tell "stories," myths, folk tales, some of which I think he made up. It is about a Japanese woman eleven years older (had the ages been reversed, it might (probably would) have made a difference) than he, who is also there to translate the same stories into Japense for a publishing concern. They formed a close relationship and he learned from her and her battle with cancer.

The old man, Frank, tells his myths and how he understood the fable of Noah and the Ark from our HOLY BIBLE. He enjoys Helen's mannerly presence, but there is friction flavored with antimosity toward Howard. He wants to make sure that he will be paid for his knowledge. Both men, young and old, are influenced by her quiet ways and intelligent interpretations. Helen discovers her illness while on this project. Howard is there for research purposes on behalf of a Michigan museum.

In 1998, NORTHERN TALES: STORY FROM NATIVE PEOPLES OF THE ARCTIC AND SUB-ARTIC REGIONS is published and it is the basis of this short tome about his feelings toward the other writer. Helen is his most "unforgettable character." He won't admit that he loved her, only that he held her on a pedestal of sorts. It is sad to read how they interrelated and helped each other to understand the old Eskimo's tales as he transcribed them into English and she in her native Japanese.

He seemed overwhelmed by the fact that they came from opposite ends of the earth and met in the cold Arctic region on a literary job. She types her notes on an old-fashioned Remington typewriter similar to the one on the cover of this book; he kept his in notebooks written in longhand.
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By Amazon Customer on December 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not his strongest effort
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