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From Barnes & NobleIf you are a fan of British comedies like "Monty Python" and "Fawlty Towers," you'll laugh out loud at the antics of Tim Moore in his Frost on My Moustache: THe Arctic Exploits of a Lord and a Loafer. A journalist who writes for British Esquire, Moore is a city boy used to the comforts of Burger King and McDonald's who reads the bestselling 19th century memoirs of Lord Dufferin -- a Victorian aristocrat who completed an Arctic expedition in 1856. Moore decides to reenact Dufferin's voyage, which sailed from Scotland to Iceland to Norway to Spitzbergen (just north of the Arctic circle) and back -- even using Dufferin's yacht, the Foam.
But this is not to be a manly survival story. The humor of Frost on My Moustache is immediately apparent as soon as it is explained that the 31-year-old Dufferin was a charming, dashing, and fearless explorer. The 33-year-old Moore, on the other hand, is suburban, defeatist, hapless, and, as he describes himself, "a failed dandy."
He is also a consummate outsider, observing his surroundings with dry humor and funny facts. Before Moore leaves on his journey, Moore and his wife spend a weekend in London at the home of Lord Dufferin's descendent, the Marchioness of Dufferin, and is introduced as "the lovely young man who knows nothing." The world of the upper-class is self-deprecatingly played for laughs such as at the dinner table, Moore's wife realizes that "the conversation was being marshalled in strict rotation. During the first course, you were to speak to the person on one side of you, during the second to one on the other. Talking across the table, a practice I had warmly championed, was right out."
Once Moore begins his expedition, dinner-table conversations are forgotten, as we watch Moore fall victim to the horrors of seasickness, his 62-foot ship bobbing through "hilariously appalling" June weather. Vomiting and other bodily functions play a large part throughout the book, and Moore has no illusions about his ability to deal with his misadventures: "Dealing with adversity brings out the best in some people, the hysterical, doom-laden coward in others." The indefatigable Lord Dufferin, of course, would never have indulged in vomiting onboard, and Moore begins to identify more with Dufferin's manservant, Wilson, a man who was "only seen to smile once," than with the man whose journey he is following.
Dufferin, Moore writes, "was the personification of Kipling's 'If.' I'm more of a 'But...' man myself." But Moore does finally reach the North Pole, and while far from throwing off his self-deprecating cynicism, feels a "vast gratitude to the total strangers who had reorganised their cosy holiday around me and my manifold feebleness." Frost on My Moustache is an entertaining, informative, detailed, and extremely descriptive tale. Enjoy it for what it is: A comedy of errors.
—Sharon Goldman Edry is a New York-based freelancer.