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I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination Paperback – July 30, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; 1ST edition (July 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312220812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312220815
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“. . . a high-cultural history, both passionate and intricate . . . Breathtaking.” —The Boston Globe

“An engaging, elegant, often majestic work of cultural history.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Thoughtful, suggestive and oddly fascinating.” —Men's Journal

From the Publisher

"Shot through with crystalline brilliance...If you have any interest in the ethos of extreme travel you won't want to be left behind." --The Washington Post Book World

"Francis Spufford's account of the early expedition to the Arctic and the Antarctic...is thoughtful, suggestive and oddly fascinating." --Men's Journal

"An engaging, elegant, often majestic work of cultural history." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"I May Be Some Time is a high-cultural history, both passionate and intricate...breathtaking" --The Boston Globe

"I May Be Some Time is a truly majestic work of scholarship, thought and literary imagination." --Jan Morris


More About the Author

I'm a writer of non-fiction who is creeping up gradually on writing novels. I write slowly and I always move to new subject-matter with each book, because I want to be learning something fresh every time, both in terms of encountering history and people and thinking which are new to me, and also in the sense of trying out a new way of writing. My idea of a good project is one that I can only just manage. I've written a memoir of my childhood as a compulsive reader, an analysis of the British obsession with polar exploration, a book about engineers which is also a stealth history of Britain since 1945, and a fusion of history with novel called "Red Plenty", about the USSR in the early 1960s. My next book will complete my slow crabwise crawl into fiction by being an honest-to-goodness entirely made-up story, without a footnote in sight. But before that, I have out a short polemic about religion called "Unapologetic". Despite the impression given by some of the reactions to it, it isn't, in fact, an attack on atheism, a position I have no trouble at all respecting. I am a little rude and a little mocking to the likes of Richard Dawkins - but it seems to me that when it comes to the lived experience of faith, Dawkins and co. are, as they say, not even wrong. So, though the book begins at the familiar address where the bust-up over religion has been going on for a decade now, it then goes entirely elsewhere, to try to convey to readers of all persuasions what Christianity feels like from the inside: actual Christianity, rather than the conjectural caricature currently in circulation. The book isn't an argument than Christianity is true, because how could anyone know that? It's only an attempt to show that it is recognisable, in ordinary human terms - made up of the shared emotions of ordinary adult life, rather than taking place in some special and simple-minded zoo. There is a tumblr for the book at unapologetic-book.tumblr.com.

(Oh, biography. I was born in 1964, I'm married with a seven-year-old daughter, and I teach on the MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, London.)

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you have come this far into the Antarctic you've already read Lansing,
Mawson, Scott, Shack, Cherry-Garrard, and Lashly. So those trudging first person narratives that caught your attention have given over to the Huntford style management critic, you got that. And here with Spufford you arrive at the analytical pole. This is not a discussion of technique nor tactics but from the South Center you can look in all directions at religion, music, poetry, myth, media; and the very power of precedence to both push and pull men.
Here is the geography that makes otherwise hard practical men simply and ultimately spiritual; the deserts frozen or not, hold horizons of nothing that fill mens' heads with everything.
Beyond this is to dream and hallucinate; try a little
Vollmann. Enjoy the ride.
PS. The last chapter of this book is worth its price; 48 pages of the best in the language on Scott and his men.
It will make you cry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bonne eleve on November 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
I May Be Some Time is a wonderful--and moving--book. Readers who were disappointed in it may have been looking for an adventure story. Well, it is that at the end, but the end comes as the climax of a long, complex, and fascinating cultural history. Readers interested in English culture in the 19th century--the world that gave rise to much Arctic and Antarctic exploration--will find this book compelling. Spufford examines imaginative literature of the period, the impact of new developments in the sciences, changing ideas of history and culture, British pride in the empire, and the roles expected of and actually played out by men and women whose lives involved them in exploration. He concludes his study with a profoundly moving narrative account of Scott's doomed final journey. This is a book that requires patience and attention on the part of the reader, but it is also a book that offers real rewards.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Francis Spufford's "I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination" seeks to show the relationship between polar exploration and English literature. He asks why British polar explorers willingly placed their lives in jeopardy in the harsh polar environment; was it gold or glory or something else? The answer, Spufford believes, rests not with the explorers themselves but with the English imagination as expressed in the writings of such the Brontës, Edmund Burke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, and others.

At a sublime level this book is about the power of ideas to shape imperial ambitions. Romance about the Arctic distorted perceptions both of reality in England and in the far-off lands of the North. The concept of the sublime in the works of Edmund Burke and Samuel Coleridge found themselves deployed to explain the inspiration and terror of the Arctic ice and the environment of the cold. Arctic explorers transmogrified the sublime into a nostalgic identification of the Poles with the best of the human imagination. Conquest of the Arctic in Spufford's estimation might be equated with virtue and destiny. It propelled the British Empire into an unending quest for knowledge about the Polar region.

Spufford's argument is quite useful, but it tends to downplay what I view as the critical component of English exploration of the Arctic, the quite mundane and practical desire to find a water route around the Americas to foster trade with Asia. The search for the Northwest Passage had motivated English Arctic expeditions since the sixteenth century and while imagination certainly aided in sustaining those efforts in the face of failure, there was a clearly understood and delineated rationale for undertaking them that had little to do with the sublime and philosophies. A fascinating account nonetheless, that requires serious consideration by anyone seriously interested in the history of Arctic exploration.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful By H. H. Villiers on February 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
Relentlessly prolix, unbearably sententious, I found reading this book like climbing out a snowdrift - hard work! There are whole pages without a paragraph and my skipping techniques were tested to the utmost. What a pity - the history of polar exploration is a fascinating subject that deserves better treatment: perhaps Mr Spufford is trying too hard. Within the heaps of slush there are a few nuggets of, if not gold, then silver plate, but most are contained in the last chapter, which takes some getting to! All told, a classic Don't Buy.
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