Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1733- Herbert T. Schwarz: Tuktoyaktuk 2-3

To conclude his introduction to Tuktoyaktuk 2-3, his collection of poetry, Herbert T. Schwarz writes

And from the people of the Arctic, the Innuit, whose spiritual values and unique life-style have been hammered out by thousands of years of incessant struggle to survive, there is a world's wisdom to learn. So forget for a while the teeming city around you. Relax and unwind and come with me to the far North to meet the Eskimo.

I never did shake my reservations with that concluding paragraph; the rest of the book either confirmed my fears or else my perspective was tainted too much from the get-go. We have hints of the noble savage trope, the generalizations, the idea that the Inuit wouldn't be reading this in the first place, the subtle bragging of the author's own hardiness and insertion of himself as a guide to another culture, the pretentiousness. Yeah, that wound up to be pretty accurate. The only thing missing was some clue that, despite all the supposed intellectualism, he also didn't know the difference between it's and its.

In the rare moments when Schwarz focused more on recalling his own observations from his time in Tuk rather than on trying to impress, the anecdotes were interesting; occasionally funny with some good imagery, but overall I found reading it to be a bit of a chore.

And lest I seem too preachy or smug, I've probably been guilty myself of some of these very same things from time to time, so I did, at the very least appreciate the chance to self-reflect and promise to do better.

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