Author Farley Mowat, “a passionate polemicist,” dies at 92

I just learned of the death, at age 92, of Canadian author and environmentalist Farley Mowat (“Never Cry Wolf,” and many others). I was sorry to hear it, having grown up with his books. NPR described him as “a passionate polemicist who blurred the lines between fiction and facts to dramatize his cause.”

Yeah… that’s a delicate way of putting it. About that:

The Curious People

Have you ever learned that a writer you admired has been lying to you? Let me tell you a little about one of my former favorites, and why I think otherwise good writers can fall into deception.

young MowatI read a lot of books about Arctic adventure when I was a kid, and it all started with Farley Mowat. A lot of people could write that sentence.

Years later many of his claims about wolf behavior in Never Cry Wolf have been refuted, his tantalizing Norse scholarship in West-Viking has been largely debunked, and journalist John Goddard’s 1996 exposé in the (now-defunct) Canadian magazine Saturday Night documented how Mowat exaggerated and falsified factual material in several of his best-loved books. (Summarized here.) Unable to refute the charges, Mowat excused himself by saying that writes “subjective nonfiction.”

Unlike several high-profile American fabulists, Mowat has remained one of Canada’s best-loved writers, and has continued to publish new…

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