Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A New Reading

Woodswoman: Living Alone in the Adirondack Wilderness would be a fantastic addition, I think, to the new curriculum focus for this course. This book is a classic armchair-adventurer-turned-real-adventurer story about the origin and evolution of an unexpected Adirondack hero. This biography is one of my favorites because it feels so transparent. She focuses less on waving a narrative that is gripping and more on conveying the aura of each phase of the story. 
I think that the new title and concept sound fantastic and get at a particularly gripping question that we will all be thinking about very frequently as we venture off the hill. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Extreme fly fishing narrative

I would like to suggest the narrative, A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean. This narrative is an excellent work that illustrates the spiritual and coming of age adventures of the protagonist, Norman Maclean, and it also depicts some beautiful fly fishing scenes, one of which, near the end, is actually quite extreme because it involves the brother of the protagonist swimming down the river through rapids with his rod in the air after a fish. Interestingly enough, this narrative also broaches on the conflict between fiction and nonfiction because although this narrative is in essence a true story, many of the details at the end of the novel have actually been altered because of the guilt felt by the author. In this way, this narrative appeals to me and is appropriate to the class because it embodies several kinds of adventure, broaches on the conflict between fiction and nonfiction, and, in one scene, acquires an essence of the extreme.

The Signal by Ron Carlson

I would like to recommend The Signal written by Ron Carlson. I read this book a few years ago and still remember the absolutely astonishing descriptions of the Wind River Mountain Range in Wyoming. The novel reminds me a lot of the Eiger Sanction although the descriptions are, in my opinion, a lot richer in the Signal. The story describes a six-day trip in the mountain range that Mack and his ex-wife Vonnie undergo. This trip is meant to be their last journey together and symbolizes the end of their relationship. Early on in the narrative, the reader becomes aware that Mack is also undergoing this trip for work and the initially slow narrative turns into a vibrant thriller. The novel is a thriller, romance and a bildungsroman. The Signal presents Mack’s quest for forgiveness and demonstrates perfectly how the River Mountain Range will help him retrieve balance in his life. This hopeful tale could be a great addition to the syllabus and I would highly recommend people to read it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Reading for the Future

1. A Walk in the Woods - I was going to suggest this as well. Similar to what Cahill's writing did for me,  I loved the descriptions of both history and the environment that pull me in and are more relatable to my sense of what adventure means. However, I won't harp on this one because I know that other people have put in similar good words.

2. The Things They Carried- I know everyone reading this blog post has read this already because it was our freshman year reading but  I think it would be a good option for classes who have not read it for orientation. This book bring in new angles of adventure- there is travel, packing, gear, but also violence, loneliness, politics. It is a fantastic read and I think could expand upon the adventures people embark on. By choice or not by choice- how we deal with them- what they bring into our lives or take away from it etc. While it departs from the horizontal & vertical themes I think it could be interwoven well into the class. I also think there are interesting parallels between the uglies of war and what it does to humans and the immeasurable dominance of nature and what it does to humans- the mentalities required as well as the psychological journeys that can occur.

I've so enjoyed this class with all of you! I hope you all have the adventures you dream of!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Future Reading

The novel "My Side of the Mountain," written by Jean Craighead George, introduced me to the subject of fictive adventure and has continued to influence me decades later. This story follows the twelve year old protagonist Sam Gribley as he runs away from city life to live self sufficiently in the woods of the Catskill Mountains. Besides being a relatively short and very readable adventure story, "My Side of the Mountain" has innumerable tips regarding how to stay alive and how to sustainably live in New York wilderness with little more than a pocket knife. Furthermore, it offers a context for adventure in a setting that anybody going to Hamilton College can relate to. At times during this semester I felt ostracized from the books we were reading by how outlandish the idea was (for me at least) to be in Antarctica, the middle of an ocean, or the top of a Himalayan mountain. "My Side of the Mountain" transposes the same struggle to survive that we read about all semester into a very relatable context (made more so if you go camping with future classes).  

Monday, May 12, 2014

For the Future

One of my favorite authors is Bill Bryson (he's hilarious) and "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-town America" would be a great addition to the syllabus as a change of pace from the typically European and/or Asian adventure novels we've read in the course. His style of writing appeals to armchair adventurers AND the book focuses on the American landscape, something I don't think we were really able to cover this semester. I would, obviously, recommend "A Walk in the Woods," which is entertaining and, perhaps more importantly, a story about the challenges armchair adventurers face when they leave their armchair.

Book Recommendations

I was going to recommend A Walk in the Woods, I see that a few other people had the same idea. Because we covered so many different genres within adventure writing (autobiography, history, spy/suspense, etc.), I thought it might be great to get a taste of humor. There are parts of A Walk in the Woods that had me laughing out loud in public places. I love when he encounters that crazy, clingy lady who keeps popping up. Anyway, I think Bryson has an interesting perspective on adventure writing because he is a writer first, and because he began hiking in order to write about it.

Since discovering everyone else's pull to A Walk in the Woods, I've been trying to think about some other adventure recommendations. I read Miracle in the Andes and really enjoyed it, although I read it in the same era of my life as Into Thin Air, so could be misremembering... I do think brings the interesting perspective of forced adventure. Unlike so many of the adventures that we read through the semester, the men had absolutely no warning that they were in for a test of survival.

It's been a few years, but I also really enjoyed Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller. It is a life scattered with adventure, rather than the typical, linear adventures that we have been reading so it may not work.