Frost On My Moustache: The Arctic Adventures Of A Lord And A Loafer, by Tim Moore
Having read a large number of books by the author , I can say that this follows the usual pattern. I happen to like this pattern, and there is a sense of comfort in knowing that the author will have some sort of harebrained idea, do a whirlwind tour of research, and then attempt to live on the cheap while engaged in some dramatic and historically important journey wherein he makes himself look like an idiot while simultaneously wrestling with issues of seriousness in a lighthearted fashion that many readers are likely to miss. This book reads like one of the early adventures of a familiar friend. I’m not sure if the author would be a friend in person, but it seems as if much of the author’s obnoxiousness and cluelessness is an act. Having read five travel books from the author that have the same story arc and approach, it is clear that the author found an approach that gave him popularity and success as a writer and freed him from the need to send nasty postcards and dream of revenge fantasies against Telefax, a company that appears to have dismissed him before this volume came out, and once a writer finds an approach that works in terms of critical and popular success there is usually little need to reinvent the wheel afterwards.
In this travelogue, we begin with an extensive look at a Lord Dufferin who was a British viceroy of Canada and India and also made a youthful trip to the Arctic with a melancholy manservant named Wilson who the author strongly identifies with. After embarrassing himself while doing research on the life and times of Lord Dufferin, the author travels as closely as he can to the path that Lord took–one presumes that the author is the titular loafer first to Iceland, then to the Faroe and Shetland Islands, and finally to Norway, Jan Mayen, and Svalbard. In reading this book, I realize I may be among the very few people that wishes they could do what this author did in terms of visiting the remote lands of the Arctic north, although I can’t imagine I would necessarily want to stay long there. The author’s comments are, as usual, humorous and on-point, and he demonstrates his commitment to traveling on the cheap, pretending not to be very adventurous, and having awkward cultural experiences with foreigners, which must be a British thing.
Although there was much to enjoy in this book, there was something about it that really bothered me. I will freely own that I was bothered by the first part of the book, which was especially cringy, largely because I am an American and find the extreme class-consciousness of the book’s opening to be difficult to take. The author’s obsequious fawning over the quirks and eccentricities of the English hoity-toity people that he encounters was quite against the grain for this somewhat more self-assertive American. It is one thing to be humiliated by seasickness or by struggles in rugged climates with people whose language(s) you do not understand, or getting lost and trying to do too much traveling too cheaply–all of that I can readily understand. It is another thing entirely to feel as if one has to humiliate oneself because one is dealing with inbred elites and has to demonstrate to everyone a willingness to accept humiliation due to social status. That part of the book really bothered me, and made me look forward to the author dealing with the awkwardness of cultural experiences with foreigners rather than with those who think themselves of a higher class.
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