*** August 2011 Newsletter Pick ***
Gretel Ehrlich is a tough woman. This Cold Heaven is the record of her seven seasons in Greenland exploring the aesthetic and psychological impact of an absolute, frozen world. In 1994 she survived a lightning strike while walking her dogs, and reclaimed enough of her health and mental energy to travel to the Arctic Circle. Greenland is a place I never want to go, and it is fortunate that readers have Ehrlich to chronicle this beautiful and inhospitable land. Ehrlich bounces from dogsled to isolated village on the heels of seekers who came before, most notably the Danish/Inuit explorer Knud Rasmussen and American artist Rockwell Kent. Ehrlich drags her limitless compassion over the earth's darkest places, places of absolute winter and unending night where death by wolves and isolation are anecdotal. Her sentimentality is reserved for Greenland's energetic children, ethnographers, and wandering souls, but she never questions the motivations or ethics of Greenlandic journeys, thankfully. Instead, Ehrlich explores the bizarre pathways of experience when nature is unquestionably the dominant form of power in a human community and diurnal time is turned inside out. The reader is made to feel the relief of a successful seal hunt after acute and deadly starvation, the preternatural joy of Greenland's twinkling winter moonscapes, and the unspeakable horror encountered at the farthest end of the world.