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Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and…

Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica (édition 2005)

par Nicholas Johnson (Auteur)

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1353169,875 (3.83)4
Johnson's savagely funny [book] is a grunt's-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It's likeM*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy."--The Times of London
Titre:Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica
Auteurs:Nicholas Johnson (Auteur)
Info:Feral House (2005), Edition: Illustrated, 276 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque

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Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica par Nicholas Johnson


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» Voir aussi les 4 mentions

3 sur 3
Books written by those at the bottom of a hierarchy are always particularly interesting and engaging, especially in this case considering the cost paid by the author. ( )
  sarcher | Jan 30, 2019 |
An amusing anecdotal account of a contract worker in the Antarctic. Sort of like "The Office" with malevolent upper management, indiscriminate sex, -100 weather, skuas, and way too much booze. ( )
  HenryKrinkle | Jul 23, 2014 |
The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. ~Oscar Wilde

I had a hard time coming up with words to describe Big Dead Place. What I loved about it is the straight-forward criticism and dead-on observations of the bureaucracy there. The author clearly despises the system, but it also seems like it's his favorite form of absurdist humor. He gives the impression that he has incredible depths of patience for it; he hates it, yet he returns to Antarctica every year.

However, the book reminds me of my own griping emails from Antarctica to my family and friends, especially given the fact that their reactions turned quickly (and understandably) from sympathetic to weary. My fellow dishwasher's brother eventually said to him, "I have a shitty job, too, and when I leave at the end of the day I'm still in the same city. You're in Antarctica." Similarly, the complaints of the author grow tiresome.

The author does a good job of exposing the conflict of interest in the relationship between journalists and the people in charge in Antarctica; because of the astronomical cost of travel to Antarctica, the journalists pander to the officials for the opportunity to go down and return again later. Their reports are often sweet-smelling and deferential. Their journalistic integrity slides a little further when they write what people stateside want to hear: that every person on the continent is a scientist and that there is only beauty and adventure in Antarctica. It's a sweeping over-simplification.

Granted, the system that provides access to the frozen continent has become ill. There is all too much of the gatekeeper syndrome going on within, and it's compounded by the fact that all parties involved are either too far away (in Denver) to know what's going on, or they're too deeply embedded in a secluded, close-quarters, frigid environment (Antarctica). But to focus only on that is also a grievous over-simplification.

The author says in the first chapter that he has no appreciation for wilderness. His matter-of-fact reporting leaves imagination and awe to be desired. It's not unlike discussing love with someone who understands it only as a chemical reaction; you think to yourself, "There is more to it than that."

I left Antarctica with an overwhelming feeling of insignificance; staring out across thirty miles of frozen sea ice at the Royal Society Mountains, you can't help but feel prone and tiny. But it's the most calming thing I've ever experienced.

What I came to wonder about the author was what he was like before The Ice--whether or not it was the environment that made him so cold. Either way, the big, dead place described in this book is not Antarctica; it's the author's interior.

It's a failure on the journalists' part to romanticize Antarctica, but it's a failure on the author's part to take the life out of it. His shortcomings take the form of artlessness. He describes the experience of going to Antarctica as "a cheap knock-off of some original meaty experience," yet he writes with all the bitterness and apathy of someone who has lost extremities to frostbite and eaten comrades as an only means of survival.

Sadly, the writing seems inauthentic and affected, like a pamphlet for a Renaissance Festival. He gravitates toward latinate synonyms, and he's a big fan of syllables. This is an intelligent man who obscures his meaning with ornate language. What becomes obvious very quickly is the author's inferiority complex and the absence of a voice all his own.

I would suggest that anyone thinking about going down to Antarctica read this book first. It's necessarily disillusioning, and it describes—with great candor and accuracy—the bullshit that people have to put up with while living there.

As someone who’s been to Antarctica—someone who actually sounded a lot like the author while I was there—this book actually highlighted the beautiful things I experienced, and it made me appreciate that I left that frozen continent with my humanity intact, enhanced even. But it took looking through this author's lifeless eyes for me to realize it. ( )
3 voter sundustnet | May 8, 2008 |
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Johnson's savagely funny [book] is a grunt's-eye view of fear and loathing, arrogance and insanity in a dysfunctional, dystopian closed community. It's likeM*A*S*H on ice, a bleak, black comedy."--The Times of London

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Feral House

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