Simon, Alvah 1950(?)-
SIMON, Alvah 1950(?)-
Born c. 1950, in NY; married 1983; wife's name, Diana (a photographer).
Home—202 Ocean Beach Rd. RD4, Whangarei Heads, New Zealand. Agent—c/o Author Mail, International Marine Publishing, Box 220, Camden, ME 04843.
Author, journalist, lecturer, producer, and writer.
Outstanding Seamanship Award, Cruising World, 1997; first place, Boating Writers International Writing Contest.
North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice, International Marine Publishing (Camden, ME), 1999.
Contributor to national magazines and contributing editor to Cruising World.
Freelance journalist Alvah Simon is a professional adventurer who has traveled through jungles and deserts all over the world. He has spent time among various indigenous people, including those in Papua New Guinea and Patagonia, and married his wife Diana on a beach in the Philippines. In 1994, Simon and Diana decided to sail their thirty-six-foot boat, the Roger Henry, from Maine into the Canadian Arctic, determined to spend a year exploring the Arctic Circle and the native people of the region. When Diana's father fell terminally ill in New Zealand, she left to be with him, and Simon remained on the boat with just his cat, Halifax, for company. The closest human outpost was one hundred miles away.
North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice chronicles Simon's experiences, which include frostbite, encounters with polar bears, and the possibility of madness. Denver Post contributor Dick Kreck quoted Simon as saying: "The combination of solitude and darkness is a cocktail for disaster. I got so lonely so down deep in my bones that I had to find for me what was no longer a real world. I had to stop and reassess everyone I knew and how they knew me." When spring finally came, and with it daylight, Simon discovered that the hull of his boat was frozen to the bottom of the ice and that the water was rising around him as the snow thawed. Nor did nature provide Simon with his only challenges: a gas leak on the boat one night nearly proved fatal.
Ken Ringle, in a review for the Washington Post, called North to the Night a "gripping book." Chicago Tribune contributor Lynne Van Matre remarked that "Simon's eloquent first-person story is an alternately harrowing and exultant chronicle of his struggles to survive," while Eric P. Olsen, in World and I, observed of the trip that while "this may strike not a few as a daring and reckless business.… the enterprise is rescued from sensationalism by an intelligent and perceptive self-awareness.." However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly questioned the motivation behind many of Simon's actions, noting that the author demonstrates "a reckless drive to make his journey more 'authentic' by taking unnecessary, and often life-endangering, risks." The critic also found the writing "often frustratingly lacking in introspection."
Library Journal writer Harold M. Otness opined that "Simon can write," and Booklist critic Gilbert Taylor called the book "a capably told tale of coping with cold." Quentin Warren, in an article for Cruising World—the magazine that awarded Simon and his wife its 1997 Outstanding Seamanship Award—remarked that "what the Simons accomplished in the arctic aboard Roger Henry was but an extension of a cruising life dedicated to common sense and pragmatic interaction with the forces of nature."
Simon told CA: "I began writing when I realized that communicating my adventures on the thorny edges of the world and my contact with native people was not only a privilege, but also a responsibility. Over the years and miles I was universally welcomed into their hearts and huts. These people shared with me a treasure house of knowledge and wisdom—scientific, philosophical, and spiritual. But mainly, they were themselves and they were different. This forced me to re-examine my culture, myself, and my place in this world. I found writing helped me process those experiences. Although the writing itself is sheer agony for me, my greatest joy is to find that something I wrote in some small way has had a positive impact on a reader's life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Simon, Alvah North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice, International Marine Publishing (Camden, ME), 1999.
Booklist, September 1, 1998, Gilbert Taylor, review of North to the Night: A Year in the Arctic Ice, p. 59.
Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1999, Lynn Van Matre, review of North to the Night, p. 10.
Cruising World, January, 1997, Alvah Simon, "A Life Well Wasted," pp. 74-75; January, 1997, Quentin Warren, "Into the Mystic," pp. 68-73.
Denver Post, November 11, 1998, Dick Kreck, review of North to the Night, p. A2.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Harold M. Otness, review of North to the Night, p. 119.
Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1998, review of North to the Night, p. 58.
Washington Post, November 22, 1998, Ken Ringle, "Frozen Dreams: Alvah Simon Has Spent His Life On the Edge," p. F1.
World and I, May, 1999, Eric P Olsen, review of North to the Night, p. 282.