'The Lost City of Z' by David Grann
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The British have a knack for futile gestures, those hapless Antarctic expeditions of Scott and Shackleton particularly poignant.
Add Percy Fawcett to the list of intrepid explorers who threw their lives away. An adventurer and amateur anthropologist, he wanted to cap his Amazon expedition career in 1925 by locating a mythical "lost city" in the interior of Brazil.
By David Grann
Inadequately funded and equipped, Fawcett, his son Jack and a friend disappeared in the green hell, to become a legend of lost causes that inspired several publicized searches over the years.
Enter David Grann, a magazine writer in search of a book idea. When he learns of the Fawcett saga, the light bulb goes on, the book proposal is sold to Doubleday and off he goes on a fool's errand to find that "City of Z."
What students of the Amazon know is that proof of a massive settlement in the interior of Brazil is well-established. Work by professional anthropologists, particularly Michael Heckenberger, who has spent years on the site, was easily available to Grann before he mounted his showboating tour. He went anyway.
The final chapters of the meeting between the two Americans are anti-climactic as the scientist gives the writer an accounting of the ruins.
Otherwise, Grann's book is an interesting, if somewhat breathless, retelling of Fawcett's life and the other "broken heroes on a last-ditch power drive" who followed.
First Published March 1, 2009 12:00 am