BOOK & BLOG
May 11, 2009
Books of the Week:
THE LOST CITY OF Z is David Grann’s very personal exploration of the fate of Percy Fawcett, an explorer who vanished in the Amazon forest in 1925. Fawcett’s obsession was finding the Lost City of Z, a place of incredible wealth that the early Spanish claimed lay somewhere in the huge Amazon basin. Fawcett, a famous explorer whose difficult personality seems to have alienated quite a few people, was known for his absolute determination, his robust health, and his contempt for men who didn’t have his stamina. Fawcett had the great misfortune of having no personal resources, so every expedition he led had to be funded by those who believed in him, including the National Geographic Society in England. On his last attempt to find Z, Fawcett tragically decided to take his own son, and his son’s best friend, into the rain forest. For a while, his letters and those of the other two men arrived at home, but then nothing was heard of them. Some expeditions were undertaken to try to trace the tracks of the lost party, but (at least partly because of Fawcett’s own deliberate misdirection) these efforts came to nothing. In fact, more lives were lost in these attempts. Fawcett’s widow, to her death, expected her husband and son to walk out of the jungle.
This book is David Grann’s account of how he came to be interested in Percy Fawcett, and how the obsession to find the lost city came to capture him too. Grann, by his own account totally unqualified to enter the rain forest, stages his own search for Percy Fawcett, with surprising results.
I read this book with mingled emotions. First, I love books about people in extreme situations. I’m sure a lot of you have read ALIVE, Piers Paul Read’s wonderful book about the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes, who were isolated for many days and had to resort to cannibalism to survive the extreme conditions in which they found themselves. INTO THIN AIR is even better. Jon Krakauer is a writer of great authority and precision, and I’ve had a very high opinion of every book of his I’ve read.
I’m not physically adventurous, which is probably why I find these books such fascinating reading. I have an intense admiration for people who are willing to subject themselves to extremes of discomfort in pursuit of their quests. In the case of the Andes survivors, they weren’t willing adventurers; but those who rose to the exigencies of their situation lived through the terrible ordeal.
Try one of these books if you’re in the mood for a little armchair exploration.
We Do Not Have a Duck
Last week, our across-the-street neighbor showed up at our front door with a bucket. This was surprising in a couple of ways. First, out here we don’t do a lot of visiting back and forth. We wave at each other in passing. While we certainly watch out for each other, no one is going to drop in unless they have an unexp.
When middle child (Son #2) and I answered the door, ASN showed us the bucket. “You don’t have a duck now, and I found this one wandering around in the park,” he said. “I thought you might like to put him on your pond.”
This was a kind thought, especially from the duck’s point of view. Looking down into the bucket, we saw an adorable, fuzzy, yellow ball of fluff. “I figure someone got their kid a duck for Easter, and then they let it go,” he said, and that seemed like a reasonable assumption.
It’s true that since the death (or rather, disappearance) of Spigot hey, come to think of it, maybe I should form an expedition and head off into the woods in search of him our pond has been duckless. Spigot was also very easy to care for; carry two cups of corn down to the pond about every other day, and he was good.
This little fella (or gal) was too young to leave on the pond. However, I told our ASN thanks, and Son 2 and I proceeded through the house to the back yard. Our three dogs (Rocky, Oscar, and Scrunch) were INTENSELY interested in the bucket. We have a big pen within our fenced-in back yard (long boring story), and we figured we could put Duck in the big pen.
There were holes in our reasoning, which became apparently immediately. Duck could get out, since he is so small.
I got one of the ferret transportation cages out of the tool shed, and lined it with paper. We put it on the stand right outside the kitchen window. I could see Duck. Duck could see me. We got Duck some bird seed, which was the wrong thing, I know! But we figured Duck would die, or something would get it, despite all our efforts it would get eaten by a dog, or a raccoon, or a hawk. The world is a perilous place for little ducks.
Duck lived. Duck would not get into the pond. We carried Duck back and forth in the bucket, putting Duck out by the pond so it could splash, or following Duck around the back yard while the dogs watched through the glass of the back door. Finally we broke down and bought Duck some chopped corn. We borrowed a bigger cage from BFF Paula, and put the little cage in the big pen in the fenced in back yard . . . three barriers between the bad world and the little duck . . . who was growing really, really, fast.
And in fact was beginning to look rather unlike a duck. Longer neck, dark under the yellow down, and a different sound range.
BFF Paula said she thought we had a Canadian goose. In which case, we would have to teach it how to honk and how to fly.
I haven’t mastered flying myself, yet, nor has any member of my family. But it seems as though we’ll learn. Not Duck is looking much darker these days, and not as fluffy, and puts up quite a fight when we put him back in his pen after we take him out for a walk. I’m not sure how Not Duck will end up. He’s quite a lot of trouble, what with the pen changing, and the getting him out so he can stomp around and eat grass seed, and the changing of his water and the replenishing of his food bowl . . . and above all, the constant need to keep the dogs away.
But we’ll do our best by Not Duck.
Appologies for earlier, format-challenged version of this post! - DF
© 2009 Charlaine Harris