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

Mystery Writer

One of my finest moments occured at Na-Bolom in San Christobal de las Casas, Mexico, in the fall of 1992. I had just given a talk about the Labrador Innu in the hacienda’s library, and when I sat down, Trudy Blom, the facility’s 92 year old owner and a prominent ethnographer, said, “You are sitting in B. Traven’s favorite chair.”

A Traven book that is perilous to ignoreB. Traven was — and is — my favorite fiction writer. If you’ve seen the Humphrey Bogart film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, then you might know that the film is based on the Traven novel of the same name.

Traven would not have wanted you to know anything about his life, however. He gave a wide berth to interviews, journalists, prizes, and publicity of any sort. Such a wide berth, in fact, that he makes Thomas Pynchon seem like a David Letterman regular.

There are quite a few theories about Traven’s identity. One theory is that Traven was the illegitimate son of the German Kaiser. Another theory is that he was Jack London, who faked his death and became Traven. Given that he, like London, wrote about down-and-outers in remote locations, this theory at least makes literary sense, which is more than I can say for the theory that he was the American writer Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared in Mexico in 1913.  Traven died in 1969, and if he were Bierce, he would have been 126 years old at the time of his death.

In all probability, Traven was the German anarchist writer Ret Marut, who, being pursued by the Kaiser’s secret police, fled to Mexico around 1925 and adopted a new name, lest he be extradited to Germany. To consolidate his camouflage, he engaged in a number of manual jobs — cotton picker, oilman, miner, etc — which gave him an excellent window on his subsequent subject matter.

“An author should have no biography other than his books,” Traven wrote, and perhaps we should respect that sentiment rather than try to prove he was really (for example) Flannery O’Connor. Perhaps we should respect that sentiment with all authors, not just Traven…

What of Traven’s books? I’m not easily moved by fiction, but I’ve been powerfully moved by The Bridge in the Jungle every time I’ve read it. This novel concerns the disappearance of a young Indian boy and a small village’s efforts to find him. I also recommend the novella Macario, which describes an elderly Indian man’s encounter with Death right after he’s obtained his life’s wish — a roast turkey.

And if you want a reading experience that out-Kafka’s Kafka, then you should procure a copy of the doubtless autobiographical novel The Death Ship, a tale of a sailor who has lost his identity papers and who signs on a “death ship” — i.e., a ship destined to be sunk at sea so that the owners can claim the insurance money.

Or you could read The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which, believe or not, is a lot better than the movie.

Speaking of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, let me conclude this bog entry by quoting a passage from that novel — a passage that should be memorized by the myriad mining companies that have laid waste to natural environments. Howard, a gold miner, says to his fellow miners:

“We’ve wounded this mountain. It’s our duty to close her wounds. It’s the least we can do to show our gratitude for the wealth she’s given us.”

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