Monday, March 31, 2014

"Who ever writes about the failures?"

On page 71 Erasmus explains his last expedition to Dr. Boerhaave and presents the question: "who ever writes about the failures?"

I noted this because it struck me as so different from many of the readings we've done so far this semester about "vertical" adventures. Many of these stories were written after extreme failure had taken place-- a broken leg, deaths scarring a successful summit, etc. These failures are actually what make them such a riveting narrative.

However, perhaps these expeditions are entirely different. They are set out in search of answers and new information and if they return home without this they have failed. This seems similar to a story where no one gets to reach the summit of a mountain. Yet, no one writes about a failed summit attempt where nothing exciting happened.. the weather was bad so they turned around. Would anyone write about an unsuccessful expedition where no one starved or ate a friend? Perhaps not.

 So it's not that no one writes about failures, it's that no one writes about uneventful failures. An epic failure is what makes an extreme adventure narrative extreme. Annapurna attempts where everyone comes back alive may seem boring to many armchair adventures unless it is spiced up with graphic frostbite.

Are all armchair adventurers Eiger Birds in this respect? If no extreme failure happens-- would we be interested?

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