Thursday, 11 April 2013

Adventure: Daring or Destructive

This month I had two adventure novels to read for book clubs.
"Gold Diggers" by Charlotte Gray and "Above All Things" by Tanis Rideout.  Two women, writing about the wild and dangerous experiences that men seem to crave.  Both books show the sacrifices and depravation that are common.  Not only do I wonder why men are motivated in this direction, I also don't understand women spending so much time researching and writing about it.
   Charlotte Gray (as seen on Canada Reads 2013), is a dignified, intelligent lady who writes pages and pages of the minutia of those who raced to the Klondike during the gold rush in 1896. The women who are highlighted aren't digging for gold technically, but making money from the miners in one way or another.  The author's attention to detail becomes tedious- the number of mines on every river, the value of the gold, the menu of food served on the riverboats, etc., etc., etc.
   Tanis Rideout is a poet, interested in the environment and the music scene.  Her first novel seems to be an unusual choice for this young lady.

Jon Krakauer

    My first reading of this type of adventure story was "Into The Wild" by Jon Krakauer, recommended by my teenage grandson, David.  Perhaps every young man thinks that this daring life is desirable.
   "Into the Wild" chronicles the life of Christopher McCandless, who graduated from university in 1990, gave away all his savings, and headed out to experience the wilderness.  He spent a lot of time reading, and underlining passages, showing his desire to test himself in nature.  His final writing was a farewell letter as he realized that he would not survive.

I had already read "Above All things", which is an account of climbing Mount Everest in 1924. So before I began to re-read it, I decided to read "Into Thin Air", an account of climbing Mount Everest in 1996.  Jon Krakauer was on that climb and did, in fact, reach the summit.  But it is heart-wrenching to read about the emotional toll it took on him, as he saw many die.  His assent led to a general re-evauation of climbing and the 'romantic' commercialization.

And so, the question: Why?
One dictionary definition of 'romance' is: 'a quality of feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life'.  And that perhaps is one reason for these quests.  Of course, men were also looking for glory and money.  Along the way they found starvation, disease, physical breakdown, death.

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