Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


I'm nearing the end of Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband,Father, and Son, the last Michael Chabon book I have not read. (I will blog more about this on Sunday), but in this 2009 collection of essays (wonderful essays, by the way) one of his sentences leaped up at me and hissed: Write a blog post about this! And so I will.

The sentence appears in "The Wilderness of Childhood": "People read stories of adventure--and write them--because they have themselves been adventurers" (61).

He's not talking about actual, physical, let's-climb-the-Matterhorn adventures but the imaginary kind, that kind I had as a kid in Enid, Oklahoma, and (later) Hiram, Ohio, where I ran around in the woods playing Robin Hood and whoever else was the hero-of-the-moment for me.

One boyhood show I loved was Walt Disney's Disneyland (it had subsequent titles, too). It had four rotating focuses: Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland. My favorite, of course, was Frontierland, for it was there that Davy Crockett roamed--the King of the Wild Frontier. I would tolerate the other three; I loved Frontierland.

And when I wasn't running around in the woods--enacting and reinacting scenes from the shows with my friends (and co-conspirators)--when I was in bed, say, hoping my dreams would feature Davy or Robin or--is it possible?--both of them?--I was what Chabon identified: an adventurer.

Virtually all the boyhood books I read were about adventures and adventurers (even the biographies were of characters I one day hoped to be: Wild Bill Hickok, Jim Bowie, Kit Carson, et al.). And virtually all of my personal Fantasyland involved me on a horse saving a small town from some Bad Guy in a Black Hat.

As I've aged, I still read what we all call, loosely, "adventure" novels (fantasy, detective, thriller, etc.), built I have also, as Chabon implies, found "adventure" to be a far more capacious category than I'd ever imagined as a boy.

So I read those "classic" adventure novels (Moby-Dick, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc.), but I also read about intellectual and emotional adventures--books such as Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Paul Auster's recent 4-3-2-1, and, well, novels by Michael Chabon.

Adventure, I've learned (as as Chabon reminded me with some grace), is not always Robin Hood splitting another arrow in the bull's-eye or Davy Crockett grinning a raccoon down out of a tree, or Ahab pursuing you-know-what.

It can be the quest for knowledge, understanding, enrichment, love.

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