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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon - David Grann

You can see how someone, perhaps someone who goes by the alias of Kemper, would read this book and come to the conclusion that we need to destroy the rainforest immediately (see review and comments that follow for a glimpse at the behaviors of peoples who have never before come into contact with sarcasm).


Seriously though, as noted in my review of Candice Millard's The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, and further evidenced in reading this tale, the jungle is a punishing, dangerous place. As per usual, I'll refer to Sterling Archer for wisdom (see River of Doubt review), "Everything out here either wants to eat me or give me malaria!"* 


The hunt for the City of Z follows the footsteps of professional explorer and part-time crazy person, Percy Fawcett (below, which also suggests he may also have been a Sherlock Holmes cosplay enthusiast), who went down jungle-yonder in search of the real-world, lost civilization equivalent of El Dorado


Percy Fawcett looking more detectivy than explorer...



Fawcett would probably be appalled by any comparisons with Roosevelt, but they did both take their sons into the unforgiving tropical environs and raise the hackles of the culturally competent Marechal Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon (below yucking it up with an indigenous peoples).


Marechal Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon


Big difference between Fawcett and TR? Fawcett never came back. Seen below with fellow explorer and guide, Raleigh Rimell, shortly the expedition vanished, Fawcett's story, in the hands of David Grann was equal parts River of Doubt and Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper as tales unravel of the many minds and/or lives lost in attempts to solve the mystery of a missing man. 


Percy Fawcett Explorer Extraordinaire


So what's Grann's take on all this jungle business? Well, pretty darn similar to Millard's who he, in fact, quotes in her description of the deathcage smackdown that is Amazonia:

The rainforest was not a garden of easy abundance, but precisely the opposite. Its quiet, shaded halls of leafy opulence were not a sanctuary, but rather the greatest natural battlefield anywhere on the planet, hosting an unremitting and remorseless fight for survival that occupied every single one of its inhabitants, every minute of every day.

Why such hysteria? Well you've got your classics- poisonous snakes, jaguars, and crocodiles ("aka the world's most deadliest predators"- Archer's words, not Grann's). There's also a boatload of clever camouflage going down, para exaple (Portuguese) a caterpillar that makes itself look like a viper. 


Spicebush Caterpillar looking all reptilian



If you manage to avoid getting a fish lodged in your orifices, you still have disease to contend with. In addition to quotidien little things like Malaria, there's espundia.


"an illness...caused by a parasite transmitted by sand flies, it destroys the flesh around the mouth, nose, and limbs, as if the person were slowly dissolving."


Obviously there are pictures of what that little gem of an illness can do on the internet, but even I have my limits. Oh, and also the reaction to white men waltzing into a camp of natives isn't always predictable.


A fascinating, fun read that probably would have been a bit more riveting if I hadn't read The River of Doubt so recently. 


Bonus Archer Jungle Zing:


Archer Croc Chomp


"What? I don't think it's racist to assume that a previously uncontacted tribe of indigenous peoples might react unpredictably, perhaps even wildly, to a bunch of white guys who walk up and hand them a goddamn M16!"


*Yes, I know that's from Pipeline Fever, which takes place in the everglades, but it still applies. Who am I lead storyboard artist Chad Hurd?