Encyclopedic survey of survival situations from the 16th century to
the present. Leslie, a "freelance researcher," loves his craft,
judging by this massive (586 pp.) production, which groans under
the weight of scores of survival tales mined from a mountain of
books, magazines, and newspapers. Mostly the tales thrill or
horrify: desert wanderings, grizzly bear attacks, cannibalism on a
drifting lifeboat. Lurid stuff, much refined by Leslie's elegant,
intelligent narration, and by the quaintness of the earlier
stories. How about two men stranded on a desert island (1540,
Pacific Ocean), who run screaming from one another, each believing
the other to be the Devil? Nearly all of the older accounts involve
the sea; in the 20th century, air disasters take precedence - plane
crashes in desert, ocean, mountain. The last 150 pages or so decay
into a rapid-fire catalog of such events, and the reader's eyes
glaze over. "There is no end to such stories as these," writes
Leslie, who seems to have no idea of what to do with his
accumulated trove. He musters some remarks about fortitude and
perseverance, and a great deal of empathy for his subjects, but
there's no cohesive perspective here, no authorial scaffolding to
organize his research - just a stylish, mind-numbing pile of
mind-boggling tales. Invaluable as a reference tool, but lacking
the philosophical glue to bind together as a definitive study.
Here are the most remarkable stories imaginable of maroons, castaways, and other survivors from the 1500s to the present - their moral dilemmas, their personalities, and their influence on society, literature, and art.
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