Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Jaguars Ripped My Flesh

Jaguars Ripped My Flesh

Tim Cahill

Date: 02 April, 1996   —   $11.20   —   Book

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Nonfiction, travel

This is a collection of travel articles written at a time when so-called "adventure" articles were pretty much limited to the kind of men's magazine that always had a busty woman in an artfully ripped shirt on the cover. In other words, the articles featured manly men who could take out a twenty-foot shark with a knife while rescuing the damsel in distress. Cahill went to his editors and told them that there could be a happy medium between those flights of fancy and the boring scenery descriptions that then dominated the travel industry. They replied, "You're right," and promptly nominated him for the job.

Jaguars Ripped My Flesh is full of stories on caving, scuba diving, and searching out archeological ruins in the Andes. What makes them so readable is Cahill's humor about the business; he's not exactly the prototypical manly man, and is fond of describing the sovereign power of alcohol when dealing with the locals. Included in this collection are two influential articles, the first about the sea turtle slaughter at Escondido and the second about Mt. St. Helens, written just before the eruption of 1980 - he spoke extensively to geologists about the "worst-case scenario" and their predictions turned out to be eerily correct, down to which side of the mountain collapsed and why. (Sadly, one of his own predictions turned out to be correct; one body was recovered wearing a t-shirt that read "I Survived Mt. St. Helens.")

Cahill is good for when you do not have the time for a full book. Each article is self-contained and, for the most part, humorous, while the few exceptions are thoughtful and interesting.

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