Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Man's Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places by Mark Jenkins

Some of you may remember my review of Mark Jenkins' The Hard Way, a book I absolutely LOVED! I am happy to report that A Man's Life: Dispatches from Dangerous Places continues those impressions, and that Mark Jenkins is quickly solidifying his place as one of my favorite authors.

Jenkins tells of his adventures on India's Road of Blood, dodging that deadliest of all creatures, Indian drivers. He takes us exploring ice caves in Greenland, and with him on his jaunts into war-torn Afghanistan, along a forgotten trail in the Wakhan, connecting Afghanistan and China. He introduces us to his childhood friends as well as his heroes (remember when we had those?), especially Antoine de Saint-Exupery, he of The Little Prince fame, who also wrote books about his adventures of flying as a pilot in the period surrounding the two World Wars (I've added Wind, Sand and Stars and Flight to Arras to my list, based on Jenkins' recommendation). And, just when you think the man can't sit still, Jenkins goes to a meditation class, and while he fidgets (believe me, I understand) he learns the deeper mystery of being still, especially in one's mind, and that in many ways his adventures have been a form of meditation all along.

The thing I like about Jenkins is he is not a reckless adventurer, like those imbecile numbskulls we see on television who attempt simply stupid tasks for the camera. What emerges from all of Jenkins' writings is his love of the places he visits, and the respect he has for the people he meets (Indian drivers notwithstanding). He learns things from his travels, from the people, and he conveys them in a language that is at once frank yet poetic in its masculinity.

Jenkins' writing reminds me of the desire for adventure that beats in the hearts of all men, in my heart, a desire that cannot be squashed by the 9-to-5 life of cubicle land and the dull, dim glow of fluorescent lights. He tells us to find adventure wherever we are, to seek it out, and that adventure is even better when it's shared with a really good traveling companion. Lastly, we are served the final course, a strong message that our lives here have a finite beginning and end, but that a life lived with adventure, defined by our relationship to the people we meet, is a life well lived.

Last year, I told you to get The Hard Way for the men in your life. This year, get them A Man's Life. And, go make some time to get out...

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