Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Horizon is So Far: the other Annapurnas

I enjoyed this book more than anything else we’ve read so far, primarily because of the style in which it was written and because of the focus of the expedition itself. Arnesen and Bancroft narrate the book themselves, likely with the help of their friends’ memories and their own journals kept during the trek. However, their narratives demonstrate a high level of reflection, planning, and revising in the writing process. This more cleaned-up, novel version of an adventure narrative was more appealing to me as a reader looking for a thrill and a connection to the material. I appreciated the straight-forward relaying of events and enjoyed the concentration upon the women’s reflections of and during the different parts of their trip. I think that including those reflective aspects in the writing, indeed focusing on them, allowed the women to more effectively relay the messages behind what they were doing and the lessons they learned.

In addition, I felt that the two Annapurna narratives contained little in the way of meaningful lessons to take away from the text and the reading experience of the adventure. Herzog was focused on a more journalistic reporting of his trip, and Blum seemed to follow the same track, though she included a more intimate look into her trip. Arnesen and Bancroft, on the other hand, were able to tell their story in a way that communicated the message of their adventure to their readers, extending the network of people affected by their efforts. They included descriptions of the highs and the lows, as well as their own personal struggles, but touched on all these aspects gently, using enough detail to create a picture for the reader, but not so much as to distract from the purpose of the book / trip or covet a specific reaction from the reader. Although I knew I was being drawn into the “trap” of the book, affected by the story and wanting to have my own adventures and affect positive change in the world around me, I also felt that this was not a bad trap to fall into, and I did so gladly. I think that as a narrative, No Horizon is So Far was a success; as a team, Arnesen and Bancroft and their company were a success; the trip they made was in many ways a success measured through both an historical and a personal lens; and I think that what the adventure left behind for the world was a sweeping success. Finally - a crazy trip made by crazy people for a tangible, noble cause that not only served their personal ambitions, but also served to accomplish what they wanted: change the world, inspire others. And they left behind a company to aid in further affectation of dreams. A good read, and a good study of why people do adventures and what can be gotten out of them.

A note: I titled my blog as such because I found that Arnesen's and Bancroft's struggle later on, after the trek, with their decision to get picked up before crossing the ice shelf, was an Annapurna in itself. (Mountain/Adventure metaphor alert!) They had to reconcile themselves to that decision and accept the small defeat, finding a way to take all they could from what they did accomplish and to shape that into a  worthwhile victory. As with climbing a big mountain, the women needed the team they inspired (the children) to inspire them in this regard - it was a victory, even if it wasn't the perfect victory. Also the logistical struggles they faced as a company before and during the trek struck me as an Annapurna. And of course, the pursuit of inspiring others long-term by their own efforts was a demanding mountain to be conquered as well. 

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