'I Plunged'

Here was my Siren Dream beckoning to me. This was the Great Hour. I recalled a similar moment, in Japan, when on a zero January morning I faced the iceberg of Fujiyama at the timber line, ready to plunge up the grassy slopes to the blizzard-swept summit. Again, and stronger, came the spiritual exultation, the sudden strange pulse of power that makes cold chills of courage race through one's blood. My body whispered: "You cannot possibly swim five miles in such a current," but Inspiration shouted: "This is the Hellespont -- what matter if it's fifty!" I plunged….

The travel writer Richard Halliburton was born on this day in 1900. Halliburton recounted his exotic, often daring trips in a handful of popular books, his "Swimming the Hellespont" taken from The Glorious Adventure (1927), which follows the path Ulysses took around the Mediterranean. John Alt's Don't Die in Bed, the most recent Halliburton biography, is titled as advice, though perhaps for the armchair adventurer:

Imagine yourself like Richard. You climb the Matterhorn in the Alps then later you ascend Mount Fuji in Japan in winter as well as take on Mount Olympus in Greece.… You swim the Panama Canal with locks opening for you. In steamy rain, you slog through the thick jungles of the Malay Peninsula, trusting your native guide to detect trail traces, and you barely escape a cobra's venom. Retracing Hannibal's march on Rome, you cross the Alps on an elephant. At the risk of being shot, you climb the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. You fly over the Sahara to Timbuktu in an open-cockpit biplane…. Out of Macao, your ship is boarded by Chinese pirates who rob you and other passengers and shoot five people, killing two….

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

 

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).