January 20, 2012

The Lost City of Z

Another book on my shelf conquered!  This is, yet again, something that I've been meaning to get around to for some time and finally got to it thanks to C.B. James' TBR Double Dare.

I probably put it off because I already read one great Amazon adventure book, Candice Millard's River of Doubt.  That book is referenced more than once by David Grann in this books.  And just last year my book club read the amazing Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage (an adventure which is also mentioned in the Grann book).  But My Lovely Bride enjoyed this and it was just a matter of getting down to it.

I'm glad I did.  It's a real page-turner.  It tells the tale of British explorer Percy Fawcett who was the inspiration for Conan Doyle's Lost World and Indiana Jones himself.  He's not as famous as some other explorers simply because he didn't technically discover any one thing we can point to on a map.  But his stamina, courage, and obsession rank right up there with any you can name.  He traveled to some major blanks spots on maps that have many things that want nothing more than to see you dead.  He did this many times and always came back alive no matter what horrors he had to deal with.

So when he, his son, and his son's friend went to the Amazon one last time in 1925 to find a lost civilization he dubbed "Z," and never returned, it became a hot spot for obsessive adventurers trying to find the famous explorer.  Since obsession is what David Grann most likes to write about, he's found a perfect subject.  Since he looks about as shlubby as I do and he decided the research for this book should entail him also following in Fawcett's footsteps down to the deep, dark Amazon I wasn't sure how this would go.  But it's quite fascinating and he does indeed find some new things to share by following Fawcett's trail.

My favorite part is the contrasting of the so-called uncivilized "savages" who practice cannibalism with the so-called "civilized" Europeans who get caught up in WWI and where Fawcett encounters the real horrors humans beings can inflict on each other.  Unfortunately, Fawcett goes down a trail of woo and spiritualism in his later years, but as Grann finds out by talking with an anthropologist towards the end, he did make some decent contributions for a scientific amateur.

Now, off to my book club in which we will feast and discuss Kitchen Confidential.  I'll post an update when I've fully recovered.