Kantner, Seth 1965-

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Kantner, Seth 1965-


Born February 18, 1965, in Kapakavik, AK; son of Howard (a farmer) and Erna (an acupuncturist) Kantner; married Stacey L. Glaser (a librarian) February 15, 1995; children: China (daughter). Education: University of Montana at Missoula, B.A. (photojournalism); coursework at University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


Office—P.O. Box 804, Kotzebue, AK 99752. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer and photographer. Has worked variously as a trapper, fisherman, gardener, mechanic, and igloo builder. University of Alaska, Chukchi, adjunct professor of creative writing, 2000—.

Awards, Honors

Milkweed National Fiction Prize, Publishers Weekly Best Books designation, and Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, all 2004, and Whiting Writer's Award, 2005, all for Ordinary Wolves.


Ordinary Wolves (novel), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 2004.

Contributor of writings and photographs to anthologies and to periodicals, including Alaska, Prairie Schooner, Orion, Outside, Switch!, Reader's Digest, and Alaska Geographic. Columnist for Anchorage Daily News, beginning 2004; contributing writer to Ruralite, beginning 2002.


Seth Kantner was born in a sod igloo in Alaska and was home schooled by his parents. Since childhood, he has photographed the vast region where he learned to hunt and fish and where he communed with the native peoples. Kantner has contributed photographs and essays to a number of periodicals, and with his debut novel, Ordinary Wolves, he presents a detailed picture of life growing up in Alaska. Milkweed Editions purchased the novel and worked with Kantner to refine it and make it publishable. Each spring, Kantner sent Emilie Buchwald, the book's editor, a draft, and later in the summer, Buchwald returned it with editorial comments. Kantner revised over the winter and sent the next draft to Buchwald after the ice melted and he could travel to the post office. This went on for four years.

A Publishers Weekly contributor called Ordinary Wolves "a tour de force" and perhaps "the best treatment of the Northwest and its people since Jack London's works." This observation is a telling one: as Kantner said in an interview posted on Milkweed Editions Online., the early-twentieth-century novelist was his main inspiration for becoming a writer. "He said when you spat or pissed it crackled and froze before it hit the ground. It never did that when I was a kid, reading Jack—it got to seventy-eight below one time, and it never did that. But the whole world believed it did because of London."

In Ordinary Wolves artist Abe Hawley comes to Alaska to find his bush-pilot father, falls in love with the wilderness, and stays. His wife cannot bear the isolation and hardship, however, and leaves Abe to raise their three children alone. The youngest child, who is known by his Inupiaq name, Cutuk, watches his brother, Jerry, leave for Fairbanks, and his sister, Iris, go off to college in Anchorage to become a teacher. Cutuk, who feels out of place in both native and white cultures, becomes curious about life away from the tundra and travels to Anchorage, where he is overcome with sensory overload. He eventually returns to Takunak and Dawna, a young woman he has loved since childhood and the woman who may become his future companion.

Library Journal reviewer Jim Coan felt that the "real depth" in Ordinary Wolves is found in the scenes in which Cutak is alone, hunting, stalking wolves, driving a dog team, and negotiating an environment "that, while harsh, is nevertheless in many ways more amenable than contemporary urban America." Booklist contributor Donna Seaman called Kantner an "impressively fluent and probing first-time novelist."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Alaska, September, 2004, Nick Jans, "The Real Thing" (profile).

Anchorage Daily News, May 28, 2004, Cinthia Ritchie, "Hunting Metaphors."

Booklist, May 1, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Ordinary Wolves, p. 1545.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2004, review of Ordinary Wolves, p. 350.

Library Journal, March 15, 2004, Jim Coan, review of Ordinary Wolves, p. 106.

Publishers Weekly, May 3, 2004, review of Ordinary Wolves, p. 170; May 24, 2004, Claire Kirch, "Awards and Bookseller Buzz Propel Alaskan Novel," p. 26.


Kapvik Photography Web site,http://www.kapvikphotography.com/ (June 20, 2007), "Seth Kantner."

Milkweed Editions Web site,http://www.milkweed.org/ (July 23, 2004), interview with Kantner.