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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann, 2009, * * *

In my continuing fascination with the Amazon, I just finished The Lost City of Z. After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, the New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve one of the great exploration mysteries of the twentieth century. What happened to the famous British explorer, Percy Harrison Fawcett?   Fawcett disappeared, under unknown circumstances in 1925,  when he ventured into the Amazon hoping to discover an ancient lost civilization in the uncharted jungles of Brazil, a place known only as “Z”. Grann's book is primarily concerned with Fawcett's last expedition, but he recounts Fawcett's entire career. It is hard to imagine what it took to strike out into the absolute unknown--with little or no communication with civilization--sometimes for years at a time. Fawcett and his companions routinely faced starvation, intense thirst, insect infestation, poisonous snakes, piranhas, and indiginous tribes not welcome to outsiders.  Mr. Grann’s style is chatty but really adds little to a story that needs absolutely NO padding. The basis for this book is a 2005 article he wrote, and that may be a more distilled account.   In addition, maps and photos would have greatly helped. This book reminded me of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – if I ever had illusions about the allure of the Amazon, it is completely gone.   Brad Pitt has optioned the book rights for a major motion picture and the story of Lt. Col. Percy Fawcett has recently been told on CBS's Sunday Morning on CBS.

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