Books by Nancy Lord

Released: Jan. 1, 2011

"An eloquent and important dispatch."
An alarming report from Alaska and Northwest Canada, ground zero for climate change. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

"A protective love story of a place of vast, otherworldly beauty."
Alaska's writer laureate explains how the state sets "the standards for what's loveliest and most necessary in the world." Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1999

A thoughtful and imaginative tour of the Alaskan landscape, past and present, by a laureate of the tundra. In 1899, writes Lord (Fishcamp: My Life on an Alaskan Shore, 1997), —the Bill Gates of a century ago,— Edward H. Harriman, funded an exotic dream vacation for himself: he fitted a steamship —with motor launches and canoes, a piano and organ, weaponry for hunting, horses and tents, cases of champagne and the requisite thin-stemmed glasses, a library, the latest audio and visual equipment,— along with a 65-man crew and the livestock to feed them. Added to this roster were some of the nation's leading naturalists, writers, and artists—C. Hart Merriam, the mammalogist and head of the US Biological Survey; Edward Curtis, the photographer of American Indian life; George Bird Grinnell, editor of Field and Stream and a founder of the Audubon Society; John Muir, the naturalist and wilderness philosopher; and John Burroughs, also a naturalist, who was one of the country's most popular writers. Lord reconstructs their witty and learned journey as this latter-day Solon and his entourage traveled across the Far North, calling on native fishing villages and gold-rush camps, collecting samples of animal and bird life that would enrich the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution and other museums, and chronicling all that they saw. Lord has no small adventures herself as she retraces the Harriman Expedition's steps, including a memorable encounter with a grizzly bear; she also notes all that has disappeared in the century since the Harriman party came to Alaska, including many species and many Native American cultures and languages. A beautifully written contribution to what might be called the literary history of science, on a par with Ivan Doig's Winter Brothers and Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams. Read full book review >
FISHCAMP by Nancy Lord
Released: May 10, 1997

In describing her salmon-fishing life along Alaska's Cook Inlet, fiction writer Lord (Survival, 1991) fashions a rich, personal cosmology in prose as fluid as her environment. Lord and her husband, Ken, spend their summers at fishcamp, netting salmon—kings, pinks, sockeye, silvers, chums—for market and for themselves, with the occasional fish head tossed to eagles. Cook Inlet is no longer a great place to fish, but then ``making a living is less important to us than living where we want to be.'' Lord aspires to an authentic integration of work and life, trying to gain a healthy and wise connection to the patch she chose back in 1978, and so she lives deliberately, attentively, and in the spirit of inquiry. And to her everlasting credit, she doesn't browbeat readers with her lifestyle, doesn't get righteous, but wears her experiences lightly and with telling effect. Her book is written in the descriptive mode, broadly curious: She tells of opening up the fishcamp in late spring and of settling into beach time (sacred as opposed to chronological); explains how the immediate landscape was shaped (glacial and tectonic and volcanic forces); ruminates on the art of net mending and the constant impact of solitude; offers a knowledgeable guide to area botany and insinuates the local fauna gracefully into the story—thrush and warbler, beaver and moose, and the colossal brown bear with whom she had a run-in (``It's not fear I taste in my mouth, but something icy and metallic, like the backside of a cold mirror''). Sprinkled throughout are stories from the native Athabascan people and from immigrants come to make a living in an unforgiving locale, tales full of ``drownings, other deaths, abrupt and defeated departures, disasters narrowly averted.'' Lord creates an elegant, evocative portrait of a hard, beautiful place. Read full book review >
SURVIVAL by Nancy Lord
Released: April 1, 1991

A promising debut collection of 15 stories, set in Alaska or concerned with it. The pieces focus mainly on contemplative women who come to terms with loneliness and distance and display the quiet courage required for survival. In the title story, the narrator, 18 years in Alaska, remembers her earlier self (``When I was 20, a skinny girl from Minnesota, I had the great romantic notion that I wanted to live in Alaska'') when she's confronted with Bonnie-who, wanting ``to get down to the essence of life,'' withdraws to an island wilderness and freezes to death. Luck and circumstance often mean the difference between survival and disaster, as in ``Marks,'' where Pam clips salmon fins in a factory and reconstructs the brutal murder of Roni, an acquaintance who chose to survive by dancing nude in a club and living a reckless thrill-seeking life- until one day she took a plane ride with the wrong man. Other stories deal with the idea of Alaska as a place to find a new self: in ``The Lady with the Sled Dog,'' a man interviews a woman who ``has mushed her team over a thousand miles of frozen mountains, through blizzards and darkness,'' and, finally seeking out her ``perfect white world,'' the man is changed in small but irrevocable ways. Still other takes are evocative and moving: ``Volcano,'' about a woman alone after a nearby eruption; ``Snowblind,'' where a woman stateside waits for her Alaskan lover, only to discover he's a deluded romantic (``You know, even if we're not there, we need Alaska to be there''); and the comic ``Why I Live at the Natural History Museum,'' which manages to transport Eudora Welty wholesale to Alaska. There's nary a clinker among these: the collection bears delicate, closely observed witness to a place and to some of the voices that come to terms with it. A writer to watch. Read full book review >