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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Erratic North

A Vietnam Draft Resister's Life in the Canadian Bush

by (author) Mark Frutkin

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2008
Personal Memoirs, General, General
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    Publish Date
    Aug 2008
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    Aug 2008
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In geology an erratic is a "boulder or rock formation transported some distance from its original source, as by a glacier." In award-winning novelist Mark Frutkin’s case, his movement from his native Cleveland. Ohio, was instigated by his wish to protest and resist the U.S. military draft during the Vietnam War, and his destination was Canada.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 American Vietnam War draft resisters sought sanctuary in Canada. Many of these men stayed, became Canadian citizens, and have made significant contributions to the country, including writers such as William Gibson, George Fetherling, Keith Maillard, and Jay Scott; musicians Jesse Winchester and Jim Byrnes; children’s performer Eric Nagler; and radio personality Andy Barrie.

Although this first nonfiction work by Mark Frutkin looks back at the circumstances and culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s that prompted the author to relocate to Canada, Erratic Northis about many other things. It’s also a lyrical meditation about "returning to nature" in the bush country of Quebec and an account of the crucible that forged one writer. Tying everything together, though, is the overarching theme of the book: a contemplation of humanity’s embrace of war and violence and the countervailing impulse to resist that embrace, specifically as seen in the experience of Frutkin himself; his grandfather Simon, who escaped Tsarist Russia and its military in the 1890s; and Louis Drouin, the Quebec farmer Frutkin bought his original farm from and who resisted conscription in World War II.

About the author

Mark Frutkin has published two previous volumes of poetry, Acts of Light and The Alchemy of Clouds. The Governor General's Award nominee has also published six novels, including Slow Lightning, The Lion of Venice, Atmospheres Apollinaire, and Invading Tibet. His newest work is Iron Mountain (Fall 21). His work has appeared in the United States, England, Holland, and India, as well as Canada. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Mark Frutkin's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Erratic North skillfully links the trajectory of the author's life to a momentous period in history. This memoir is Frutkin's first book of non-fiction. Here's hoping it won't be his last."

Winnipeg Free Press

"Like most of the Americans who migrated north in the late 1960s and early '70s, Frutkin was a draft dodger. In his case it was a family tradition: some of the most fascinating and powerful sections of Erratic North recount how his grandfather Simon Frutkin fled Belarus in 1896 at age 18 to escape the czar's draft." (October 2008)

Literary Review of Canada, The

"... Mark Frutkin was carried north by the Vietnam War, and has remained to become one of Canada's most innovative and interesting writers."

Globe & Mail, The

"It's a heart-felt book, mainly examining the mindset of 1970s peace-loving idealists ... a thought provoking read." - Ottawa Citizen, September 14, 2008

The style here is simple, light, and elegant, with a sense of humour and modestyHis (Frutkins) book is a quirky, enjoyable read. - Quill and Quire, July/August 2008

"Frutkin's memoir is a beautiful book, one about the search for peace that has marked many of our years."

The Sun Times

Other titles by Mark Frutkin