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David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


Recent posts
After countless rescues of bus-bound pilgrims, and, this summer, the second drowning death of one of them, I revisited Into the Wild and explored how Jon Krakauer's heroic account of Christopher McCandless is cut from whole cloth.


"Alaskans tend to blame Chris McCandless for the perpetual troubles his disciples have inflicted on themselves and the state. It’s easy to do so. He stumbled into Alaska and up the Stampede Trail wholly unprepared to experience his fever dream of living off the land. He walked a scant few miles beyond civilization and the road system and camped out in a bus. He didn’t have a map. His self-obsession bordered on megalomania. He starved to death — a stupid, senseless, and entirely preventable way to die so close to civilization. Why, we Alaskans ask ourselves, would anyone consider this person to be a hero?

"The answer lies not so much in McCandless himself as in the way his story was presented."
Fairbanks artist Kes Woodward, known for his brilliantly-colored depictions of the boreal forest and especially its birch trees, shares the story of how he became an artist and what it takes to be successful. The latest installment in the series Creating Alaska.

“I don’t have any inborn facility or skills. It’s all really hard for me. I believe in commitment, hard work, ambition, and ruthlessly making yourself do the best you can and dedicating yourself to doing the best you can at whatever it is you do.”




The North Pole is as much a place of the mind as a place on the map.

A recent book about the top of the planet explores the myriad ways the Pole has been envisioned and employed for centuries.


"How humanity — well, primarily European humanity — has grappled with the notion of a place on the planet beyond time and measure is the theme Bravo takes up in this fascinating and almost magical book. Drawing on history, mythology, science, spiritualism, and an abundance of historic illustrations and maps, he approaches the Pole from multiple directions, discovering new meanings and opening new possibilities with each northward advance."
In the first installment of the new series, Creating Alaska, Fairbanks author Rob McCue discusses his life, and the feelings of egalitarianism towards people from all walks that are on display in his debut essay collection, "One Water."

“We all come from these bizarre circumstances that nobody else can appreciate,” McCue said. “I don’t know that someone who went to college and has a good job is any more interesting than somebody that came from humble beginnings and figured out some way to get by. That is the humanity I’m trying to get at. Just because this guy lives on the street or that guy has a drinking problem, you don’t know what that person went through. You don’t know what that person’s experience was that caused them to become this person that did things this way.”

A new book explores the brief flowering of the white fox fur trade during the early twentieth century in the Western Arctic, from Canada to Siberia. It's a far reaching economic, cultural, and ecological account of a period in Alaskan, Canadian, and Russo-Soviet history that tends to be overlooked, despite the boom times it created.

"The impact in the north was immense. As traders moved in and established posts and bartered for pelts, Native peoples abandoned traditional subsistence economies and diets in favor of the goods and foodstuffs they could acquire from traders. The traditional means by which they had long thrived in such a harsh environment gave way as villages centered around trading posts, missions and schools replaced the migratory lifestyle that Arctic survival had always demanded."

Exhibit goes deep inside Franklin Expedition


I paid a recent visit to the Anchorage Museum to take in the Death in the Ice exhibit, which explores the doomed Franklin Expedition that went in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845 and came to halt in the waters north of Canada, where all 129 men died, but not before the last survivors resorted to cannibalism. Their fate and the mysteries surrounding what happened have haunted history for over a century-and-a-half.
"The mysteries of the Franklin Expedition will never be completely solved, but the story on display at the Anchorage Museum remains as gripping as ever."
Teaching us to be better humans and Alaskans, one immigrant at a time

After five years, the Becoming Alaskan series about immigrants in Fairbanks has drawn to a close. I'll be archiving all the articles on my website this fall and exploring book possibilities. Meanwhile here's the farewell column.

"Becoming Alaskan has easily been the most rewarding writing project I’ve ever undertaken. To have so many people share their life stories and entrust me to bring them to print has been one of the highest honors of my life. Whittling each of those stories down to the 1,000 words I was allotted has been one of my hardest writing challenges. Behind every story there have been details, quotes and contextual information that I simply couldn’t squeeze in. No person’s life can be told in a newspaper article, but hopefully my summaries have captured part of the essence of each person I’ve profiled."