in Siberia
Lawrence Millman is a man of many talents. As an author, he has written 16 books, including such titles as Last Places, A Kayak Full of Ghosts, An Evening Among Headhunters, Lost in the Arctic, and — most recently:

At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic (2016)
Giant Polypores and Stoned Reindeer (2013)
Hiking to Siberia (2012)
Fascinating Fungi of New England (2011)

As a mycologist, he has studied fungi all over the world, but especially in his own backyard of New England. And as an explorer, he has made over 40 trips and expeditions to the Arctic and Subarctic. The photo shows him in a contemplative mood on a beach in Siberia.


What’s he’s up to

  • October 18 — Atheist Nomads radio interview.
  • October 19 — Talk about fungal ecology at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
  • October 20 — Fungal foray for the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.
  • October 28 — Fungal foray at Fresh Pond in Cambridge Center.
  • November 19 — Expedition to nether Labrador.
  • January 25-31 — Mycological trip to Bermuda.
  • Early February — Publication of The Book of Origins!

Featured Review

my latest
A True Story of Murder in the Arctic
Michael Morrison, co-author of Journey Into Climate. Jan 23 2018

Millman guides us to a place where spirits inhabit stone, snow, and seals, keep us company, and make our lives whole in their embrace. Ignoring reason and propriety, he opens our hearts to survival, to magic, and to ecstasy.

Giving himself to the wind, wet squalls, squalid homes, crusted stone, hungry water and hungrier mosquitos of the Belcher Islands and to the lives and love of the people born there, he takes the stories they tell of the 1941 murders that followed the introduction of religion deep into himself and vulnerably brings forth this book, these stories, this gift.

The Inuit are embarrassed by the murders. It is not us, they seem to feel. And, perhaps it isn’t. Millman uncovers how Christian lies severed them from the source of their strength, meaning, and the friendship of their home. Cut adrift, they lost their bearings and were wrecked on rocks far harder than those of the Belchers.

But this is only the beginning. Millman interjects diatribes about “screen-time”. About people walking down the street looking at their phones to discover the weather instead of looking around them. About the love contained in a tearstained, paper love letter, love much reduced in the same words sent by text. Initially, these interjections feel jarring and out of place in a story we think is about some distant, boreal tale of murder, meant to provide a moment’s entertainment.

It is only when we find ourselves leaving the house without our phones, embracing the wind as it howls without restraint and watch, surprised, as our own howls rise to meet it; when we feel the mortal companionship of plants, mushrooms, and animals seeping into our blood; when we make love with the swirling, dancing, unbridled world from which we have come, that we see that, just as the Christians cut off the Inuit from their strength, we are further cutting ourselves off from our strength with our ferociously-paced technology. Only then do we see that this is not some safely neutered, ink-and-paper docudrama, but is, in fact, a shaman’s unapologetic dance from outside the bounds of Civilization. Only then, like finding an arrow scratched in the earth leading us home in a storm, does the enormity of Millman’s gift land with its full weight.

— Michael Morrison, co-author of Journey Into Climate. Jan 23 2018

Order your copy today at indiebound.org, amazon.com, or barnesandnoble.com.

Recent Posts

Sir John Franklin’s Lost Diary

On September 9, 2014, Parks Canada discovered the remains of the HMS Erebus, explorer Sir John Franklin’s remarkably newsworthy flagship. Among the artifacts retrieved from the ship was a Fortnum & Mason jar labelled “Sweets.” The jar did not contain any sweets, but rather a diary written by Sir John himself — a diary that solves at least part of the so-called Franklin mystery. What follows is that diary’s final entries:

FranklinApril 30, 1847. Ship lies groaning & straining in the ice off King William Island. On a whim, I brought out my maps of Arctic Canada, only to discover that the Admiralty had provided me with maps of Polynesia — an unfortunate error.

May 2, 1847. Sore gums & loose teeth indicate that many of the crew have scurvy, so I spoke out against this nefarious French disease & initiated tango lessons and likewise bench pressing of the ship’s spittoons to ward it off.

May 3, 1847. Ship still mired in the ice. The bosun, in the midst of a tango maneuver, fell overboard, went through the ice, & was promptly torn to shreds by a school of man-eating isobars. Bloody Arctic!

May 5, 1847. Dreamt Lady Jane came for a visit & asked, “Sir John, why are you late to supper?” “I’m looking for the Northwest Passage, dear,” I told her. “But you can’t eat the Northwest Passage, can you?” she replied ominously, then vanished.

May 8, 1847. Lost three men today, one to scurvy, another to terminal gingivitis, & yet another to ennui. To make matters worse, the steward told me, in his inimitable fashion, “we ain’t got no more elevenses for you, sir.” How can I captain this expedition without my elevenses?

May 11, 1847. The cook extremely upset over our empty larders. Says there isn’t even any solder left inside our food tins. “Hang in there, old chap,” I told him, but the roar of the wind in the ship’s rigging garbled my words, & he tried to hang himself. At least the men are still obeying my orders.

May 12, 1847. Dense fog. We can’t even see the ship’s prow, much less a possible shortcut to the Orient.

May 14, 1847. We’re totally out of crumpets, so I had to feed Cedric [Cedric was Franklin’s pet toucan] a few forlorn scraps of hardtack. Not surprisingly, he squawked in protest.

May 15, 1847. Took bearings & discovered that, instead of corpulent, I am now merely portly. Remarkable that I can now ascend the mast-head as well as descend from it.

May 17, 1847. Men shivering almost constantly, & their beards are hung with icicles, as the Admiralty somehow has seen fit to supply us with tuxedos & cummerbunds rather than parkas. Wrote a letter of protest to the First Lord, then such was my hunger that I proceeded to eat it.

May 27, 1847. Several Savages [Eskimoes] with prognathous jaws visited the ship today. They brought us a batch of pemmican eggs. Alas, all rotten. Must have been laid before the great pemmican migration south. In return, we gave each of the Savages a tuxedo & cummerbund.

May 29, 1847. More misfortune — one of the crew, doubtless a petty officer, has eaten poor Cedric! I said to Fitzjames [Franklin’s second-in-command], “Find the bounder responsible for this & give him a taste of the cat.” “Sorry, sir,” Fitzjames told me, “but we’ve already eaten the ship’s cat.”

May 31, 1847. Lieutenant Orme, a clean-shaven fellow except for his clump of grizzled whiskers, broke into my cabin & consumed the contents of my chamber pot, then began singing “Rule, Brittania.” I put him in the section of the sick bay reserved for nutters.

June 5, 1847. Weary of being mired in ice, we abandoned ship & began making our way to Back’s Fish River, thence, we hope, to England’s green & pleasant land. The men carried me in a sedan chair. Two days into our journey, I realized I’d forgotten my robe & slippers, so we marched back to the ship.

June 8, 1847. Abandoned the ship a second time. Curiously, my sedan chair seems to have disappeared, & I’m now being manhauled in a sledge filled with towels, kettles, sail-maker’s palms, porcelain cups, bedding, checkerboards, our portative organ, longboats, etc.

June 9, 1847. Met a group of Savages & asked them using signs for the route to Back’s Fish River. They fled in terror when Fitzjames produced a loud blast of flatulence. “Sorry, sir,” he said, “but starvation seems not to agree with me.”

June 10, 1847. Longboats abandoned owing to the terrestrial aspect of the land.

June 12, 1847. Dr. Goodsir, our surgeon, tried to enliven things by asking us which vegetable the Admirably forbade us to take on board the Erebus. Answer: Leeks! Only Goodsir himself laughed at this feeble joke, & as he did, several of his teeth loosened in his gums, then fell into the snow.

June 13, 1847. What a nuisance! I seem to have left my monogrammed cutlery & all my medals on the Erebus, so we had no choice but to march back to the ship, which was now a sorry sight — both the fore & aft decks were covered with a thick coat of scurvy.

June 14, 1847. A blizzard has kept us on the ship, so I began working on a talk to be given tomorrow at tea-time. Key sentences include: Eat your boots, men. They’re quite tasty. Give me a nice fresh boot over steak-and-kidney pie any day. [On an earlier expedition, Franklin had been compelled to eat his boots]

June 15, 1847. Hallo, what’s this? Fitzjames has barged into my cabin without a knock. “Sir John,” he says, brandishing his cutlass, “the men & I have made an important decision. The cabin boy is lean & emaciated, while you…”

Here the diary necessarily breaks off, but the percipient reader will have no trouble ascertaining why Franklin’s remains have never been found.

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