Thursday, February 15, 2007

Reader's Diary #232- Dillon Wallace: The Lure of The Labrador Wild (up to "The Parting")

I'm not sure if the the title was an editor's suggestion or not, but I don't think it fits. "Lure" seems to imply that readers will be getting a tourist brochure treatment of the place- not so (unless said tourists think starving to death is a great way to spend a vacation). The only way the title could be perceived as appropriate is in the sense that the Labrador wild could lure a person to an untimely demise.
And that's what makes the book so compelling. Very early on Wallace lets the reader know that a tragedy is imminent, yet oddly that doesn't spoil the book. In fact it becomes a study of death and how its threat affects minds and actions. If that doesn't appeal to your morbid fascinations than I don't know what will. Actually, that's not true. Saw III this is not. But it's interesting nonetheless.
The two most telling indications that the ordeal is taking its toll on the travelling trio is the conversations about literature and about food. As the trip begins, Hubbard often quotes Kipling, Wallace is reminded of Poe poems, and such literary references show their frame of mind; the still have a romanticized view of Labrador and of the adventure. But as starvation sets in and they become weak and face death, poetry is replaced with the Bible. The men are trying to find peace and trying to make sense of their hardships and, like many do, they turn to religion. It's fascinating to see that as the men devise one last plan of escape and allow themselves another moment of hope, Hubbard turns back to literature and quotes an optimistic Longfellow line, "Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;/Behind the clouds is the sun still shining."
Food plays a vital part in the tale as well. In fact, hunger itself is pretty much the fourth companion and the most dominating one at that. As lack of food takes its toll and the men live almost solely on the chance of getting a few grouse or trout, the men reminisce about past meals and plan on restaurants they will visit when they make it out. It's a great book to compare to Stanley Park actually. Whereas that book was preoccupied with food based on the protagonist being a chef, this one views food as a necessity. Yet both books revolve around country food.
And before I forget... I made a comment in my last Labrador posting about the men bumbling through the woods, I may have been a bit unfair. While yes, they got lost on more than one occasion, ripped their clothing many times, and so on, they are far more capable than I and I am often amazed with their knack of finding food and enduring all of the hardships (even if the trip was ill-conceived in the first place).


Barbara Bruederlin said...

There is something really compelling about reading a story when you already know there will be a tragic ending. And those tales of struggles to survive in the wilderness are always fascinating, as they make me wonder what on earth they could have been thinking to plan such a venture, and to plan so badly. Of course looking back at it from a span of decades and from the comfort of one's living room makes all the difference in the world.

John Mutford said...

I agree, oddly knowing the ending, especially when it's tragic, doesn't always ruin a good story. I remember feeling that way about Moulin Rouge.

And yes, it is fascinating to see how badly some of the early explorers planned. Ever read Pierre Berton's "The Arctic Grail"? Lots of similar, and even more shocking, examples of ineptitude.