The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

This fascinating book by New Yorker writer David Grann has just come out in paperback and seems to be vanishing from bookstores about as fast as the clerks can stock it. So, is it that good? I have to say, yes, it is that good, and you should join the purchasing hordes and buy a copy of your own. This is despite the fact that it took me a long time to read, about twice as long as I expected it to. I’m not sure what was behind that, because I liked the book a lot.

So what is The Lost City of Z about, anyway? It’s really two stories woven together: the biography of Percy H. Fawcett, a turn of the century (19th to 20th) explorer of South America; and the search for both Fawcett and his possibly mythical City of Z. Fawcett was one of those brave, bold, blustery searchers in the mold of Richard Burton, David Livingstone, and Roald Amundsen. And Fawcett staked out the buggy, dangerous forests of South America as his turf. Over the years, he heard more and more about a large city in the forest, and he believed. His final journey, on which he took only his son and one of his son’s friends, was for the express purpose of finding his “City of Z.” But the Fawcett party never returned.

After that, who knows how many people took off trying to find him, or word of him, or his beloved City of Z? The Royal Geographic Society started referring to them as “Fawcett freaks” and the Brazilian government actively discouraged these forays into the unknown. Grann estimates that hundreds perished in the search. And of course he, being a journalist, decided to follow. And he discovered something — or someone. Let’s just say that there’s a hero to this story, Dr. Michael Heckenberger from the University of Florida. You can Google him (mysteriously, there is no Wikipedia entry), but I suggest you read Grann’s entertaining book instead. I highly recommend it.

Alas, if you are an animal lover who does not like to read about bad things happening to animals, you’ll either have to tough it out or skip this excellent book, which is MOSTLY UNSAFE for animal lovers. From vampire bats feasting on pack animals to killing monkeys, it happens in the Amazon. Then again, the sole survivor of the Fawcett party appears to be a dog that found its way back to the farm where Fawcett acquired it.

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March 11, 2010 - Posted by | Book Reviews, history, nonfiction, travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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