Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Z

In 1925, a British explorer named Percy Fawcett, set out with his 21 year old son and his son's best friend in search of a city that he believed existed in the Amazon, which he called "Z".  Fawcett was a very experienced explorer, and had spent most of his life looking for evidence of a lost sophisticated culture in  the Amazon jungle.  While this was not his first trip, it was his last.  Many people made expeditions to the Amazon in the following decades in an attempt to find Fawcett.  There were rumors that he was alive but a captive of the Indians, and rumors that he had died, but that his son had lived and had fathered blond haired children in the rain forest.  Many of the people who tried to find Fawcett were never seen again themselves.

Over the years, the methods of exploring became more and more advanced, so that when David Grann set out on his own expedition to find out what had happened to Fawcett for his book, The Lost City of Z, he was able to go to a camping supply store in New York, and get everything he needed, no experience necessary.  The modern world has also made the Amazon more accessible by cutting down miles of the trees through which Fawcett trekked.  Grann got help in South America from guides and locals, once they were assured that he was only a journalist, and not an explorer.  This presents the obvious question  -  what exactly is the difference between a modern day journalist and an early 20th century explorer?  Both want to find out more and reap the notoriety and monetary rewards of their discoveries, right?

The Lost City of Z details all of Fawcett's Amazon expeditions, and to a lessor extent, their toll on himself and his family.  There were definitely pages of details that I could have skipped, and questions that could never be answered.  However, the last chapter makes it all worth while.  While Fawcett was exploring, the world wondered if there really was a Z,  or if Fawcett was crazy for looking for it.  In the end it seems that he might have found what he was looking for, but couldn't see that he had found it.

Next up on CD:  The Unnamed  by Joshua Ferris.  I've started listening to this one and was excited to hear that Ferris was reading it himself.  I've had good and bad experiences with authors doing their own reading, but Ferris' voice seems to fit this story.

Still Reading:  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  Seriously.

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