I recently had the opportunity to read Nick’s first book, The Last Light Breaking. I savored this journey into the lives of the Inupiat people of Ambler, Alaska – a people who, according to Jans, “move within the eddying currents of time, space and light – where the laws of physics seem to float freely, compressing and expanding, refusing logic.”
This book is an anthropological treasure. Yet – it’s much, much more than that. For the naturalist, the outdoors person, wildlife biologist – and those who simply enjoy a damn fine artist (Jans) and the tales of his time in a place that most will never journey remotely close too – It’s a fantastic read!
The characters, creatures, culture and challenges of living in a remote village like Ambler provide a wide and diverse audience with every element essential to invigorating the readers interest – and a yearning to return to the volume to continue enjoying Jans literary artistry.
Buy it. Savor it. Learn. Listen. Prepare to perceive the world around you in a unique and precious way.
Epistemology is defined as “the study of the nature of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” ( Admission: I stole that definition off the web). Translation: Epistemology is the study of the process and context regarding “how we come/came to know what we claim/claimed to know.” Epistemological inquiries are multi-dimensional. These dimensions include – but are not limited to – time, people, places, myths, beliefs, literature, norms, attitudes, values, mores, writings, prejudices, fears, beliefs, belief systems, practices, orally transmitted stories passed from one generation to the next – and the means and methods through which the aforementioned are transmitted within and among sub-cultures — and the broader cultures they inhabit. In every sense of the word, these types of inquiries are a journey through a multi-dimensional maze. Oftentimes, the written results of epistemological inquiries insult and inflame the passions of those who hold most militantly to a particular perspective populated by living, breathing, adrenal, beliefs, life experiences, opinions and “knowledge” that is threatened by the guide assigned to illuminate the complexities of the entire matter. For the author, it can be a grizzly challenge.
Translation: What we think we know is momentary. It exists in the time, place and space we inhabit. If the history of human civilization demonstrates anything – it is the fact that what we think we know is momentary. It’s temporary. It is “Knowmentary.” Knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, fears, perceptions, observation, mores, practices, memes and norms are all perishable (thank heaven!). Even emotions appear and disappear in terms of their actual behavioral expressions by humans. What we think we know is embodied in terms like certainty, truth, love, affection, accepted practice, guidelines, policy and procedure, rejection, questions, doubt, fear and confusion – they all morph, evolve, ebb and flow as emotional states, practices, attitudes, beliefs and language expressed in human existence.
Enter author Nick Jans of Juneau (now Haines) Alaska – our guide through this particular “Grizzly Maze.” A story that baits the reader to enter into an environment with the subtitle – “ Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Attraction With Alaskan Bears.” Honestly, I would NEVER have selected this book to read without being curious about the sub-title – and- in the spirit of full disclosure – that the death of Timothy Treadwell and his companion Amie Huguenard actually occurred in 2003. Finally, I recently read Jans book “A Wolf Called Romeo” and was both enthralled by the story and indelibly impressed with this particular writer’s amazing acumen to craft a compelling, compassionate, riveting, real-life treatment of an actual life experience.
As a hiker in the “lower 48” who enjoys spending countless days exploring wilderness areas every year, a fisherman, and a photographer – Nick Jans work “The Grizzly Maze” is, in my opinion, THE BEARBIBLE.
To treat this work as solely an in-depth analysis of what led to the deaths of Treadwell, Huguenard and and two Alaskan Grizzlies – would be unfortunate, at best. This volume is, much, much more than that – albeit Jans treatment of the central story/sub-title is expansive, poignant and fair – it is amazingly well-balanced. To treat this book as an educational tool limited to Grizzly bears – would also be a miscue. The treatment that Jans provides regarding bears in general, black, brown, Alaskan and lower 48 species is, once again, practically beneficial for anyone who journeys into areas inhabited by bears. I am better prepared having read this book.
I confess that I never watched any of the number of video/movie/documentary productions about Timothy Treadwell, The Grizzly People, Alaskan Grizzlies or otherwise – prior to reading this book. Yes, I recall the national media attention in 2003 that accompanied the deaths of Treadwell and Huguenard. Yet, that’s about all the foreknowledge I had before I picked up this book.
A few observations about the author Nick Jans: He’s a craftsman – weaving prose, research, interviews (with innumerable sources) – into an outstanding literary work. He has the ability to capture the reader on page one and keep you turning pages through page 251. Jans life experiences – including living in Alaska for 25+ years – provides a unique depth that thoroughly enriches his ability to manufacture marvel for the reader. A first class writer. A sage of a story-teller. A lion with language. Yet, having said all that, as a reader you feel like you’re being guided through a maze by a guy you can trust, somebody you can depend on, someone who illuminates the questions without pretending to possess all the answers (particularly when there are none). He is honest, forthright and fair. Jans writing is refreshing, informative, appetizing — and keeps the reader yearning for more. His treatment of the myriad of subjects and story-lines contained within this story is expansive – without crossing over into boredom for the reader. For me, Jans style is enthralling and engaging. Frankly, Alaska might do well to recognize writers like Jans.
“The Grizzly Maze – Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Attraction With Alaskan Bears” is an outstanding example of the value of humans called to write – to tell our stories – the stories of others – and the creatures we inhabit this planet with. For people who enjoy the outdoors, The Grizzly Maze is THEBEARBIBLE. Buy it! Devour it! Digest it! Learn from it! The next time you or others around you seem absolutely certain about something subjectively, think “Knowmentary.” See if it changes the way you perceive life, self, creatures, world and others – for the better.