Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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.