Failure is the Engine of Adventure

Today my review of Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La ran in The New York Times Book Review.

Here’s a bit from the piece:

“Adventure” these days is merely an experience that allows for a modestly elevated number of variables — renting a car without a GPS unit, for instance, or visiting a friend in East Flatbush. Not that the world is denuded of excitement. It’s just that true adventure requires something that defies an itinerary: failure. Failure is the engine of adventure.

Mitchell Zuckoff’s “Lost in Shangri-La” delivers a feast of failures — of planning, of technology, of communication — that are resolved in a truly incredible adventure. Truly incredible? A cliché, yes, but Zuckoff’s tale is something a drunk stitches together from forgotten B movies and daydreams while clutching the bar. Zuckoff is no fabulist, though, and in this brisk book he narrates the tense yet peaceful five weeks during 1945 that three plane crash survivors spent immersed “in a world that time didn’t forget. Time never knew it existed.” Even at the level of exposition, the book is breathless.


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