Friday, February 6, 2015
February 2, 2015 Issue
“We navigate via the stars of details,” James Wood says, in his How Fiction Works. I agree. It’s how I read The New Yorker. Perusing this week’s issue, I was struck by a detail in John Seabrook’s wonderful Talk story, "Free," about an Inuit throat singer, Tanya Tagaq, visiting the Museum of the American Indian. Seabrook writes, “Tagaq, who is thirty-nine and has jet-black hair and a girlish face, had removed her sealskin boots and was sitting barefoot on the floor of the Diker Pavilion, a large oval space on the museum’s ground level.” Those sealskin boots caught my eye. I’ve long been an admirer of such footwear. In Iqaluit, Nunavut, where I lived for nearly ten years, they’re called kamiks. Bleached sealskin soles, shaved sealskin vamps, stovepipe-shaped leg sections, contrasting fur colors (white, silver, gray, black), tightly stitched, patterned with geometric designs such as diamonds, chevrons, circles, triangles, or stripes - they’re an Inuit art form. One of my favorite books is Our Boots: An Inuit Women’s Art (1995) by Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe. Seabrook’s noticing of Tagaq’s kamiks is inspired!