How To Write An Adventure Story
You would like to write an adventure story. You would like people to look at you the way George Lucas looked at Ace Drummond or Alfred Hitchcock looked at John Buchan. The music of James Bond waits at your feet like a dog waiting for you to throw a ball it can go gallop and fetch.
You sit in a hut near a beach in the Scottish Highlands listening to a tale of how the father of an acquaintance made their way around half the top arc of the top of the United Kingdom in less than a day on a recumbent bicycle and find yourself weighing that up against the highest number you ever achieved in a game of keepy-up — somewhere in the hundreds, but not in the thousands because all the other soccer players would want to go home at some point, have family, friends, and wives — and you wonder if this is good enough. You bean count your athletic accomplishments.
You are well aware that David Foster Wallace stood up in front of a graduating college class and declared that true heroism is in hours of quiet probity with no audience to see or applaud.
You are working towards a definition of ‘adventure’ as some kind of ‘critical unit’ — in the second person, no less — as something one-step beyond the ‘lightness’ Calvino characterized in his Six Memos For The Next Millennium.
As Hervé Gardette said during an episode of “Du Grain à moudre” on France Culture, “The adventure of today is not the same of yesterday.” If you are climbing Mount Everest, if you are circumnavigating the globe, you have to align yourself with “the demands of simultaneity” — that is, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other form one can think of — but if one aligns one’s self with “the demands of simultaneity,” then to what degree is “the narrative form taking precedence over the substance of the project?”
To ask for and pursue an adventure, then — that is to say, ‘a transcending of the limits’ in a world that never offers up limits, but one that is, in fact, always with you and always present is to understand that one frontier of an otherwise traditional ‘adventure’ has now been reduced to a cocoon, a carapace of compellingly constructed humanity. When we knock the carefully curated world of an Instagram feed, this is what we’re knocking.
Biographical diversion: I am wandering through Colonial Williamsburg in the beginning of spring wondering about someone adventuring through the invention of America. I am imagining Revolutionary Era detectives. I am imagining time flattening out and allowing for more than one person from more than one era to occupy a bench beneath some Japanese Cherry Blossoms and by a running brook.
But to seek to seek an adventure in the current political and technological moment as a place of narrative refuge reminds us not only the power of silence and avoidance, but of the democratic power buried in magical realism as well — of a shape-shifting, talking dog; of Ireland suddenly becoming something worthy of The Odyssey itself; of the fact that “no man is an island” — but every man, woman, and child being capable of adventure, too.
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