Tim Cahill,
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh
(Bantam, 1987)

Brazen stupidity will get you anywhere in life. That, and complete and utter irreverance.

The adventure travel book Jaguars Ripped My Flesh offers rather stunning proof of this. One of Outside magazine's founding editors and a longtime contributor to Rolling Stone, Tim Cahill regales us with tales of fearsome and certainly humourous adventure written from his very unique, quirky perspective. Diving with sharks, caving in Kentucky, skydiving in California, filming poison sea snakes in the Philipines and exploring ancient ruins in Peru. The author has done it all and kept us laughing through his experiences.

"Personally, I've found that it doesn't pay to take these accomplishments too seriously. I spend a lot of time laughing at myself." Cahill sums it up nicely, just like a walk in the park. Next minute, he's flying with the Air Force Weather Reconnaissance Squadron into the eye of a hurricane. Admittedly, what else can you do but laugh in the face of danger when you're already too scared to throw up?

Comprised of thirty stories under separate and appropriate divisions, Jaguars Ripped My Flesh is not all bold-faced humour in light of death-defying adventure, although there's plenty of that. The author offers us a compelling take on many things seen in the course of his travels, from ecological rape in Mexico to his dark account of the aftermath of the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. However, most of the stories in this book are written in a light vein and are all a delight to read.

It's difficult to say exactly where the true appeal of this book lies. Obviously, in the sense of adventure and the author's self-deprecating sense of humor, but I'd be tempted to say it's the general combination of many things -- with the added bonus of the inspiraton they provide to do things we would only dream of considering.

As the author says, "I suppose all this sounds like some adolescent daydream. In a sense, it is. Most of us abandon the idea of a life full of adventure and travel sometime between puberty and the first job. Our dreams die under the dark weight of responsibility. ... Because competence and courage continue to elude me, others have been inspired to realise their own fantasies, reasoning, quite cogently I think, that they could hardly do worse than I have done. I like that: I like to think that I am in the business of giving people back their dreams."

[ by Melinda Lau ]



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