Friday, August 28, 2009

Another textscape: "adventure . . . the interrelationship between human beings and topography"

"Most great stories of adventure, from The Hobbit to Seven Pillars of Wisdom, come furnished with a map. That's because every story of adventure is in part the story of a landscape, of the interrelationship between human beings (or Hobbits, as the case may be) and topography. Every adventure story is conceivable only with reference to the particular set of geographical features that in each case sets the course, literally, of the tale. But I think there is another, deeper reason for the reliable presence of maps in the pages, or on the endpapers, of an adventure story . . . . People read stories of adventure -- and write them -- because they have themselves been adventurers. Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger, and sometimes calamity. For the most part the young adventurer sets forth equipped only with the fragmentary map -- marked here and there by tygers and mean kid with air rifle -- that he or she has been able to construct out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading, and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children." Michael Chabon, "Manhood for Amateurs: the Wilderness of Childhood," The New York Review of Books, vol. 56, no. 12, July 16, 2009.