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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lost City of Z Discussion

The Lost City of Z

by David Grann

genre: Non-Fiction/Biography

Obsession. David Grann, a journalist, sets out to write about the life of Colonel Percy Fawcett and his treks into the Amazon jungle for the Royal Geographical Society. Fawcett becomes obsessed with the idea of a lost civilization, as many have done, in the Amazon jungles which adheres to the legends of a city of gold and riches.

Interspersed with the stories of failed journeys by Fawcett and other crews, Grann lives his own obsession bringing us along for the ride. Given the horrors of trekking through the Amazon, and the fate of so many before him, I felt like a person staring at a car accident but not wanting to look. In the end, Grann's book enlightens more the seduction of discovery for these men than the actual findings. The findings, though astounding, wan in the wake of the near addict obsession of the trek itself.

I am exceedingly grateful that Grann wrote the book for the reason that I loved the trek, the fascination with this obsession, but you would not catch me following such a path unless it were in the form of written words. The book itself carries the expected journalistic style from the author, though it drags in some places and jumps about a bit, the conveyance of each man's feverish need to go routing about in a dangerous jungle kept me pleased and reading.


jaded said...

I like the way the author wove his personal journey in with Fawcett's. It was interesting to note both the parallels and differences between the two men. On one side the shared tenacity, the spirit of adventure, and a desire to solve a mystery. Their notable differences made Fawcett less likable. Was he an adventurer seeking answers to civilization, and gaps in history, or was he just another egoist incapable of playing well with others? He placed his family in jeopardy, but supposedly it was at his wife's insistence, so was it really selfish?

By the end of the book, I found myself wondering if Fawcett had in fact made his discovery of a lost civilization, and survived to report back to the Royal Geographic Society, would have recognized it?

There is a tendency for "civilization" to measure advancement based on the advancement of the native societies they live within rather than measuring a society based on its own environment. In other words some societies lose credit for civilization due to lack of creature comforts (tailored clothing, electricity, internet access) even though the native societies might actually be functioning at a higher level relative to their native environment.

de said...

I loved reading this book, but agree that you would never catch me heading off into the jungle. One flesh eating maggot would be enough to send me home, thank you very much. I'm the sort who would have been happy with a map which said "here there be dragons" forever.

I was reminded of a lot of history and anthropology I had forgotten from college days, and I learned quite a bit of new information as well. After finishing the book, I was intrigued to see what Grann was like "in person," so I watched an interview of him discussing the book I, like Grann, was reluctant to leave off at the end of Fawcett's trail, so I spent some time looking at Michael Heckenberger's current work.